I have to start this review with an admission. Outside of the mainstream folk artists like Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers and Laura Marling, it’s not a genre that I have particularly followed. As a result I had no idea of what to expect but this show at the Tolbooth was a live show like none I’d ever experienced before.
Ross Couper was due to open the night with guitar accompaniment from Tom Oakes. Unfortunately, Tom wasn’t able to be there, so Ross and his fiddle were instead accompanied by a pianist.
Their set was energetic as they performed songs that spanned from Billy Joel to traditional folk music from Shetland (much to the delight of the one person from Shetland in the audience, to which Ross quipped that “there’s always one Shetlander”).
He was full of stories that engaged the audience inbetween songs. A particular highlight involving writing a song for the Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Society (yes, it’s a thing!) which was eventually named ‘The Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Club’s Trip to Shetland’.
With great stage presence and some beautiful pieces of music, it was a great way to open the show.
After a brief interval, Talisk came to the stage. Mohsen Amini on the concertina, Hayley Keenan on the fiddle and Graeme Armstrong on the guitar all took their seats on the stage.
It was almost immediately clear that Mohsen is a real cheeky chappy of a frontman, chatting away to the crowd straight away. He even quipped about Hayley having surgery only the day before the show, one of the last in a string of tour dates across Europe that started over a month ago.
It was shocking that the Scots trio weren’t exhausted as they approach the end of their tour. The set had many very high-energy pieces with everything from traditional marches and jigs to music from their album Abyss.
There was great variation in the set, as they balanced some of the more energetic pieces with subtle arrangements. A highlight was a piece written by Hayley about their time touring in Canada. I’d never been to a show where the music could evoke so many emotions without a single lyric to be heard. It really conjured images of wandering through Canadian trails.
It’s easy to see why Talisk have received such critical acclaim, including winning the 2015 Young Folk Award and being nominated for the 2017 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards’ Horizon Award. They conjured a captivating sound that had the audience out of their seats and dancing and clapping along throughout.