On Dec. 10, 2019, I stepped out on a whim to see Frank Turner reunite with his former band Möngöl Hörde at Lee’s Palace in Toronto. It was a loud punk rock set, and a great end to the year’s busy concert calendar.
And then the world pressed “pause.”
In what grew to be a long and often painful lockdown, I began relying on texts and phone calls to keep in touch with friends both near and far. A regular practice of sharing ideas for books, films, TV series, and music established itself.
I was introduced to work I’d never come across before, and many months of song exchanges with a dear friend allowed me to discover older catalogues that were new to me. I learned that some music is regional, and that Canadian icons like The Tragically Hip or bands like Metric and July Talk were as unknown in Scotland as Gerry Cinnamon, Travis, and Del Amitri were to me.
My appreciation for these artists deepened, and I especially found myself seeking out Del Amitri’s entire body of work as well as lead singer and songwriter Justin Currie’s solo ventures. I’m now convinced that he is deeply under-appreciated and underrated, and likely one of the most talented lyricists and observer of the human condition to ever grace a concert stage.
Everyone who knows me at all will attest to my ongoing love affair with Scotland, land of fairies, unicorns, and a place I consider my soul’s home. I’ve been across once or twice a year now for nearly a decade, cementing deep friendships made over time and wandering its majestic landscapes.
In true serendipity, this current trip coincided with Del Amitri’s release of a new album, Fatal Mistakes, and a tour that includes dates in their own backyard, bringing me to the Perth Concert Hall on Oct. 14 for my first live show since Frank Turner bellowed into his mike almost two years ago.
The contrast couldn’t have been greater in terms of style and environment, though I have no complaints or regrets about either experience.
The venue’s approach, guided by Scotland’s still cautious pandemic guidelines, included proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to attend, as well as indoor masking and seating limits.
The set list was a perfect mix of classics and their latest release, with a stripped-down sound that worked beautifully. Justin Currie’s vocals were strong, with the same warm tones of previously recorded work. The musicianship was impeccable and the accordion accompaniment was a lovely touch to many songs. I also appreciated the fun energy of opening act The Byson Family.
It dawned on me that the pandemic allowed me to discover these artists. In that sense the concert felt bittersweet but the band did not disappoint.
They delivered an hour-and-a-half of solid hits and deeper cuts, with a few wry comments and repeated expressions of genuine gratitude from their frontman between songs. My personal favourites were a part of the set, including the devastatingly beautiful Driving With The Brakes On, the classic Here and Now, and the recent belter Mockingbird, Copy Me Now.
For absent friends who couldn’t make the show, I took a video of the poignant Tell Her This and shared it with them. It was my way of paying back the kindness and spirit of generosity I have always felt in this country.
I hope Del Amitri is inspired by this UK tour to cross the pond next year so I can experience this magic again. However, there was something very fitting about being here, after a long silence of 22 months, listening to the band that got me through some of the most difficult days of the pandemic.