Gig review: RM Hubbert/Emma Pollock

RM Hubbert/Emma Pollock
Electric Circus, Edinburgh, September 2.

‘There’s two reasons you shouldn’t go on holiday,’ Emma Pollock tells us during her set. ‘The day before -and the day after.’ Hmm, she may not have been kidding. The night of this gig was the night before we went on holiday as a family -and I think it was only because it was Emma Pollock playing that my long-suffering wife acquiesced to my going. As for the day after, well, I’m getting to write this up -and I had a great time at this gig…

I first fell for Emma Pollock’s music in the nineties, when she was a member of The Delgados, my favourite Scottish band ever, and the four people behind what must be Scotland’s longest running independent label so far, Chemikal Underground. In 2005, the band sadly called it a day. Emma has gone on to release two excellent solo LPs, Watch The Fireworks and The Law Of Large Numbers. In addition to this, she has also been involved in Burnsong, The Ballad Of the Book compilation and The Burns Unit (the latter with other Scottish Acts, including King Creosote, Karine Polwart and Karine Polwart).

Tonight, her part of the show is drawn largely on numbers from, er, …Numbers. Armed on with her acoustic guitar, and a bottle of beer, she charms the audience, and I’m reminded that one of the reasons I have been to see her so many times as a solo artist is because she makes the audience warm to her banter inbetween songs. While some artists might make an audience cringe talking about their children and how they’ve influenced a song (see, you’re starting to do it almost involuntarily!), she explains ‘The Child In Me’ as about being in playgrounds with her son and how it brings out her childish side.
The version of ‘Adrenaline’ (no.1 in the 2007 17 Seconds’ Festive Fifty!) is stripped of the piano motif and presented in a much more sober way. I hope she records a version of it this way. She is working on solo album no.3, and amongst the songs she presents is one called ‘Dark Skies.’

This tour with RM Hubbert -or ‘Hubby’ as he is affectionately known-is a co-headliner. Whilst Hubby has been open in the press about his battles with depression, he is endearing on stage, and a warm sense of humour comes across. There is a sense of the openly, nakedly confessional -but more in the between-song patter than lyrically. After all, the bulk of his material is instrumental. But there is a beauty within -and whilst his life has obviously been touched by a great deal of tragedy, you sense that Hubby is (hopefully) working through it. I have encountered far more embarassing cartharsis than this.

And whether it’s songs like ‘SG.666’ or his own take on ‘Car Song’ (which appears on his latest album Thirteen Lost And Found with Aidan Moffat performing the spoken word part), there’s something moving and involving here…

Whether collaborating together or separately, La Pollock and Hubby managed to show that actually a solo artist with just an acoustic guitar can hold a room rapt. This show wasn’t anything like as well attended as it should have been, but I’m surely not the only one who left with a warm glow.

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