Tonight’s show is part of the Hidden Door’s contribution to Edinburgh International Festival’s Light on the Shore – a celebration of all things Scottish and musical, hosted in The Leith Theatre. It’s a fantastic venue that boasts a certain battered beauty from nearly 2 decades of neglect and rebirth through the hard work of the Leith Theatre Trust, so there was a huge sense of expectation in the 1500 strong sell-out crowd as they entered a venue few knew existed before the gig was announced.
First, to grace the impressively proportioned stage were Glasgow’s Spinning Coin. Their set of the 80s infused indie was slightly at odds with the rest of the bill and was sadly reflected in the absence of the audience who appeared to have opted to stay in the pub a bit longer. Their loss – they missed a band who have clearly put heart and soul into their beautifully crafted Pastels-esque compositions.
The arrival of Honeyblood to the stage coincided with the majority of the crowd entering the auditorium. As regulars on the festival circuit, the duo – Stina Tweeddale and Cat Myers – know how to make the most of their time on stage. With just guitar, drums and vocals they blast their way through a set featuring ‘Babes Never Die’, ‘Sea Hearts’ and ‘Super Rat’. It was clear the audience was on board right from the off and each grunge edged hit received a rapturous reception.
The old theatre wears its history on its sleeve, a bit rough around the edges with references to past glories adorning the walls. Many would say the same applies to the Reid brothers – but not tonight. Somewhere in the blinding lights and dry ice, Jim and William, accompanied on stage by Scott Von Ryper, Brian Young, and Mark Crozer, were about to exceed expectations and once again prove themselves to be an outstanding live proposition.
With the opening salvo of ‘Amputation’, it’s pretty clear the band had uncovered a weapons-grade cache of the intensity and menace that’s been missing from their live performances over recent years. The crowd-pleasing start continued with ‘April Skies’, ‘Head on’ and ‘Blues from a Gun’. Any cobwebs were blasted out over the docks with immediate effect.
Tracks from 2017’s acclaimed ’Damage and Joy’ slotted in seamlessly alongside the classics – as a band now in the 4th decade of their career there’s a lot more of these than you think! Where previously a track could have descended into a dirge, tonight they gave us rich layers of textured guitar sprinkled over the arrangements by the impressive Von Ryper. A backlit Jim Reid stalked the stage throughout, his mike lead bunched to his face, driving home each line with his whole body, a thousand-yard stare in between. William never strayed far from his amps – working the riffs out his guitar from underneath his trademark mop of slightly greying curls. This was not a band going through the motions – it was intense.
Finishing the main set with an incendiary rendition of ‘Reverence’ our ears were given a few moments respite until the demands for more reached a crescendo and the band returned. The beautiful ‘Just like Honey’ eased us back in gently. We were treated to three further songs before the closing track which was an epic version of ‘I Hate Rock ’n’ Roll’. After that performance I would beg to differ – I love it!