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The Bell Hotel in the centre of Driffield is home to a number of events throughout the year, organised under the Moonbeams banner, with each visiting artist carefully hand-picked and presented by Leila Cooper. Tonight saw the return to the candle-lit venue of Idlewild frontman Roddy Woomble, whose unassuming presence on stage bears little resemblance to what you might imagine an indie rock band's frontman to be. Seated to the extreme left side of the stage and certainly out of the spotlight, the singer's composure and restraint throughout the set was echoed by the audience, who listened intently, that is aside from a couple on the front row, whose 'sweet nothings' began to grate after a while. Talking whilst the band is on stage might be okay at an Idlewild gig, but tonight's band deserved some considered attention and that's precisely what they received from the rest of the audience.
The band, consisting of Sorren Maclean on guitar, Seonaid Aitken on fiddle and piano and Craig Ainslie on bass, was given the opportunity to play their own set prior to Roddy's appearance on stage. The Isle of Mull's Sorren Maclean is currently at that exciting stage just prior to the release of his debut album, where the songs are being broken in before live audiences and good songs they are too. Each song was treated to a fine arrangement, helped along in no small part by a bassist who clearly knows what he's doing together with some tight harmonies and fiddle playing courtesy of Fife's Seonaid Aitken, whose own story deserves further investigation. Sandwiched in the middle of Sorren's own songs was a pretty cheerful cover of Bob Dylan's If Not For You, which was nice to hear again.
Once the Idlewild frontman took to his stool, it felt like one familiar song after another, with a repertoire that covered just about every corner of the songwriter's career thus far, from Idlewild material to his own solo songs, starting with a song from his most recent album LISTEN TO KEEP (2013), the bluegrass-tinged Trouble Your Door, which in effect demonstrated the tightness of this outfit from the get go. There would no doubt have been some in the audience eagerly awaiting the Idlewild songs, which dutifully came a couple of songs into the first set, with new arrangements of You Held the World in Your Arms, Quiet Crown and Take Me Back to the Islands, before going on to deliver the gorgeous My Secret is My Silence, which is the sort of song that you feel, if only for a few moments, that you are hearing the best song you have ever heard in your entire life, helped in no small measure by Gerry and Ani McNeice's superb twiddling at the sound desk.
The second set was made up predominantly of songs from Roddy's solo repertoire, including some of his most recent songs such as Leaving Without Gold and Travelling Light. Like Sorren before him, Roddy included a well-chosen cover to infiltrate his set, with a toe-tapping take on John Prine's Speed of the Sound of Loneliness, which included Sionaid providing some fine fiddle accompaniment. Sionaid also duetted with Roddy on the anthemic Waverley Steps, before concluding with the brooding Old Town, the band returning for one final encore, with the highly appropriate Idlewild song Goodnight.
It has to be said that it was slightly baffling why the room wasn't full to the rafters for such a quality night of music, but the relatively small audience was treated to a top class show nevertheless, with three excellent sets plus an unexpected opening appearance by the young Bridligton singer/songwriter/guitarist Brodie Milner, whose youthful confidence, reminiscent of a young Ryan Adams, brought a distinctive spark to the evening.