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KGB (Keenan, Gavin, Byrne) and Lahira – City Halls – 21st Jan 2018 – Review

KGB (Keenan, Gavin, Byrne) and Lahira   – A stunning evening of repertoire.

First up ‘Lahira’, a collaboration involving two well known faces from their own collaboration with ‘India Alba’, Gyan Singh and Sharat Srivastava, joined by master electro vocalist Jason Singh, guitarist Joe Harrison-Greaves and Gaelic singer Ann Martin. From the start its obvious that this is no ordinary collaboration, Jason Singh is a revelation, utilising computer effects and voice to create a backdrop for the improvisation of the other musicians, seamlessly merged with soaring vocals from Ann Martin. As the show progresses it becomes apparent that the fusion of the Gaelic, Indian and Mancunian traditions has potential to be a very deep well to draw inspiration from. A show stopping moment occurs when Gyan, Jason and Sharat embark on what is described as ‘A Short Raga’, they then proceed to indulge the audience with an amazing show of their improvisational prowess, treating them to an old but effective jazz trick of trading 8’s then 4’s then 2’s (bars) which drew more than a few gasps from an enthralled audience. To end their set Lahira showcase a piece from their recent Atlas arts/PRS Foundation commission. This is Ann Martin’s moment, not only proving that those high octaves are well within reach but also that its okay to have a conscience, Ann brings a message regarding land issues and colonialism within the piece. This brings the performance to an end and left this reviewer asking for more. This collaboration should definitely have the opportunity to further explore the depths of a very interesting musical beginning.

 

Next up, KGB. (Keenan, Gavin, Byrne) With such illustrious names from the traditional music pantheon, there is an air of expectation in the room, one which Gavin breaks immediately by telling a few jokes. This is his way of settling us in, ‘relax, we’ve got this’. The trio then treats us to a couple of high octane sets, waking the audience up to the fact that they’re in the presence of some serious musicians, both technically and spiritually. The banter continues to attempt to mask the sheer brilliance on show here. Each of the trio has their own ‘spot’ where they play tunes of their choice, Gavin’s choice also showcases the prowess of his fellow musicians, he just can’t help be a leader. Byrne’s solo spot basically show us that he’s in that company for a reason, blistering ability and brought with a bit of a smile to boot, showing us that we need to watch the quiet ones. Keenan takes the route of playing a slow air, shying away from technical pyrotechnics this time, having treated us to quite a lot of that already.

Keenan announces that its their first gig and that they put the set together in the back room, I believe him to a point. There’s always some discussion about tunes before the sets, this gives the feeling of being at a session rather than a concert. It is perhaps Celtic Connections greatest achievement to take the spirit and camaraderie of the session and place it on the big stage. At times it also feels like we’re at a classical recital as the trio treat us to some of the less foot stomping parts of their repertoire, bringing welcome light and shade to the proceedings. The gig ends with blistering set of reels, there’s joy in the room, a distinct feeling of it all feeling ‘right’. This trio were not going to be allowed to leave without an encore however. After being persuaded to come back on, Keenan hilariously leaves the stage again, refusing to take part, only to return to some laughter to give the audience a cracking second encore to make up for his antics. A casual glance at the clock tell me it hasn’t just been ten minutes, KGB managed the holy grail of live performance, entertaining us for nearly 90 minutes and it felt like ten. More please.

 

Ashley Scott, CMR



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