It has been a long time in coming. Ian Donaldson performing his first live solo shows since H2O (and a Few Good Men).
Over the last few years Ian is back in the limelight and has been busy, having launched his first novel “A Rainbow in the Basement” and earlier this year releasing his debut solo album, as well as having his own radio show on Your Radio 103FM.
Friday night is gig night
Websters Theatre is an imposing venue from the outside, a converted church in the West End of Glasgow. It is a venue I’d never been in before. As I walked up to the entrance I was anticipating a great night’s entertainment.
Glasgow weekends usually offer up a fantastic choice of live gigs for the discerning music fan. Tonight was no different. I had ended up choosing this gig over a triple bill of The Godfathers, Heavy Drapes and Drunk Gods across town. Having seen both Heavy Drapes and Drunk Gods before, I knew I would be missing a great gig.
As I entered the venue I hoped I had made a good decision… I needn’t have worried.
Unfortunately, I missed the first support act, but arrived as 2nd support, Redwood Ridge, were finishing what I believe was their first song. I waited in the wings until they finished and ran in and grabbed a seat between songs. Redwood Ridge were new to me, but I thoroughly enjoyed their set of multifarious rock with a hint of country. Lead singer Jessica has a fantastic commanding voice.
Set highlights for me were their final two tracks “Lifetime” and “Low Lives & High Hopes”. The former was performed on acoustic guitar and introduced as having been written and recorded in half an hour for her university degree. She must have passed with flying colours. The latter being a powerful rocky aspirational song including guitarist Darren soloing on his twin necked guitar.
Next up it was….trying to keep warm between acts! As I said the venue is a big old draughty church and while that meant the acoustics were great, it was a tad cold. No, it wasn’t – it was fecking baltic!
How Have you been?
Ian took to the stage to a warm applause though, and a “How have you been……for the last 35 years” before launching into set opener “Success”, the first track from H2O’s debut album “Faith”. Following this up with the “Street Car Desire” from the tremendous solo album “From Stars We Came”. The tone was set for the rest of the evening.
The set list mainly coming from the new album (we got almost the whole album but no “Angel Pale” – one of my favourite tracks – maybe next time). This was interlaced with the old crowd pleasers for the people of a certain age in the audience.
Let’s face it, that was the majority of the audience, but pleasingly with a smattering of younger faces around the place too. Including drummer Gordon (McNeil – also of Toytown Records – the label Ian’s album is on) who was younger than several of the songs he was playing.
Being Glasgow, there was a good bit of banter throughout the gig. One of the lengthier exchanges being with one punter whose claim to fame was “(being) on stage with Adele”. “Adele who?” was Ian’s quick retort.
Judging by the number of comments shouted from the audience, there were also a number of young ladies who possibly had designs on Ian back in the day. Prize for dedication goes to Inge who flew in from Holland for the gigs. Ian’s timing was impeccable though – when he thanked her for coming, she was in the loo…
Let Love In
Back to the music and next up was the exquisitely soulful “Let Love In”. Ian looked as if he was enjoying himself and seemed very relaxed. More songs from the new album followed “Until Life Turns Your Way Again”, and the potent refrain of “Welcome to the World”.
Ian’s voice was rich and passionate all night and the band were on top form on their respective instruments. The aforementioned Gordon McNeil (drums), Derek Fleming (guitar), Andy Gillespie (Keyboards), George D (bass) and Leanne Hood on one of my favourite instruments, the saxophone.
I Dream to Sleep
The acoustic stripped back version of “I Dream to Sleep” complete with harpists, Mair and Ali (or harpoonists as Ian called them) was haunting and beautiful, showcasing Ian’s voice well. He was quick to point out that he was “27 and that song is 35, don’t know how that works” while pointing out his hair colour is “the new black”.
Next up were the epic soaring “In a Faraway Place” and “Turn on the Radio”. Ian encouraged us all to clap along – “at least it’ll keep you warm” he joked.
The whole gig was terrific, the final songs of the main set were a great mix of old and new. From H2O’s final single from ’87, “Blue Diamond” which had many of us singing along enthusiastically. To new album title track and one of its highlights “From Stars We Came”. Through the high octane romp of the single from last year “Ticker Tape Parade” to the final track of the set, H2O’s other top 40 hit, “Just Outside of Heaven”. As the band left the stage, we all knew they would be back for at least one song they hadn’t played yet…
As Ian and a couple of band members returned to the stage, it was a signal of what was coming next. I sensed there were a number of knowing smiles on faces as they played “Leonard”. The remainder of the band returned for one final song. The one we were all waiting for, H2O debut single. “Hollywood Dream”.
Some people drifted away at the end and others hung around to speak to Ian and the band, I had a pang of jealousy thinking of those who were going to the sold-out Saturday night. A great night of music and a very welcome return from the boy fae Govan.
Ian has a couple more dates confirmed in The Bungalow, Paisley on April 7th. And at “Retro at the Rock” at the Your Radio 103FM stadium in Dumbarton with Gun and Big Country on May 18th…. Look out for more dates in the future.