SSE Hydro, Glasgow
IT'S a shame Clapton's first Glasgow show in three years ended in much audience confusion and anger, as he and his band had been in terrific form until then.
Ninety minutes or thereabouts into the show's advised two-hour running time, Clapton walked off during Cocaine, the penultimate song, possibly irked by a sound issue. The band followed suit. He returned, apologised briefly, played guitar on the final scheduled song, High Time We Went (sung by keyboard player Paul Carrack) and departed without a word. The house-lights went up, and the fans, believing they had been cheated out of at least 30 minutes, reacted badly.
Prior to Cocaine, this had been an excellent show. Clapton opened with Somebody's Knocking, then Key To The Highway and Tell The Truth, both of which dated back to his Dominos days, and Willie Dixon's Hoochie Coochie Man.
During a lovely acoustic set, he played Layla, Tears In Heaven, Driftin' and Nobody Loves You When You're Down And Out. Tears In Heaven had spine-tingling backing from singers Sharon White and Michelle John.
Clapton frequently ceded the spotlight to his keyboard players, Carrack and Chris Stainton, and to guitarist Andy Fairweather-Low. Carrack sang How Long?, his old Ace hit (complete with excellent Clapton soloing) and Fairweather-Low sang Gin House. Great versions of Crossroads and Little Queen Of Spades followed, Stainton earning one of the loudest cheers of the evening with a blazing piano solo on the latter.
Then, unfortunately, it went slightly pear-shaped.
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Amy Boone may indeed run a company that offers parachute jumps when she's not out on the road with the Delines or Texas alt-country band The Damnations TX, as Delines songwriter-guitarist Willy Vlautin told us in a between-song pause on Friday. Then again, Vlautin's also an imaginative novelist so it could be a story.
What's not in doubt is that the Portland, Oregon-based Vlautin, who has established a loyal following in these parts through visits with his band Richmond Fontaine, put the Delines together purposefully to accommodate Boone's voice.
The attraction's understandable. Boone has a tone that sounds like she's telling Vlautin's story-songs as if she's experienced them, a blend of vulnerability and resilience that's grown from promising not to slip up, drowning in lovers' arms and trying to persuade a reluctant flame that Wichita's not so far away.
Vlautin plays a supporting role alongside Boone, creating a sound with keyboardist Cory Gray, bass guitarist Fred Trujillo and drummer Sean Oldham that may be a bit studiously languid for some tastes but fits the tenor of songs where longing is the primary currency.
Much of the material came from the band's recently released first album, Colfax. In fact, the first five songs were the album's first five tracks, establishing a dreamy ambience that a new song dedicated to Vlautin's horse shifted into almost spaghetti-western territory with the introduction of Gray's trumpet while Boone took over on keys.
Trujillo's dedication to TexMex country hero Freddy Fender offered a celebratory change of pace before Dave Murphy, steel guitarist with support band, Ireland's The Lost Brothers, joined in to add fitting, sliding blue notes.
The Bield, near Perth
The calm before the summer festival storm, Solas offers a more spiritual experience than other outdoor events. But while certain corners of its fields provide nourishment for the soul, its spoken-word programme engages the head and its musical line-up at times rivals any other homegrown niche festival, especially when it steps out of what might be considered its comfort zone.
Because Solas operates on a modest scale, it's perhaps natural that acoustic acts fared so well on Friday and Saturday: the perfectly balanced weight of emotion tangible in every flamenco-styled note played by RM Hubbert, the rich jazzy inflections in Rachel Sermanni's folk songs, the infectious Elvis-Costello-goes-busking joy of Beerjacket.
It was perhaps ironic, then, that the only "Glory Hallelujah" I heard at this particular festival came during King Creosote's headline set (albeit in his cover of Hamish Imlach's Cod Liver Oil And The Orange Juice).
On Saturday afternoon, the outdoor Roots tent proved a mixed blessing for Glasgow independent label Olive Grove's four-act showcase. Confines were cramped for the expansive post-prog soundscapes of Call To Mind but perfect for the angelically ethereal Jo Mango, while the sunny indie-pop of Randolph's Leap and warm mariachi tones of Woodenbox dovetailed with the midsummer weather.
The Head Space strand suffered from a few late and on-the-day cancellations, but a Saturday double-header with Lesley Riddoch and Andy Wightman was stimulating and, in this referendum year, absolutely necessary.
Brain cells and dancing feet continued to be tickled yesterday, but perhaps the best example of Solas's think-while-you-party agenda came in the shape of Saturday headliners Stanley Odd. By directly confronting the need to vote, Westminster dominance and political inequality - all set to jump-up-jump-up rhythms -the Edinburgh hip-hop crew were the stars of the show.
Italian Chapel, Orkney
Orkney's Italian Chapel sits alone on Lamb Holm, tiny, humble and exquisite; blink and you'd miss it as you travel along the causeways between the mainland and South Ronaldsay. The chapel was cobbled together out of two Nissen huts in 1943, built by Italian prisoners of war who had been brought to Orkney to construct the Churchill Barriers (crucial defences to the British fleet stationed in Scapa Flow). The soldiers painted the exterior in dazzling whites and reds and the interior in sumptuous Catholic iconography - the resilience of their creative imagination is in every brush stroke.
St Magnus Festival holds a concert in the chapel every year: aside from the tremendously moving history of the place, its intimate acoustic makes for gorgeous up-close listening. This year's midsummer concert marked 70 years since the soldiers' release - an occasion that attracted the Italian ambassador, Scotland's Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop and one of the surviving prisoners-of-war, a dapper gentleman wielding a camcorder.
The concert itself was thoughtfully conceived if patchily delivered. Italian early-music trio Laus Concentus devised a programme of lute songs and interludes from the early 1600s, around the time of the painter Caravaggio. Groupings of songs linked to his early Roman works: the 1602 canvas Amor Vincit Omnia, for example, was depicted in music by Caccini, Stefani and the aching Si dolce e il tormento by Monteverdi. The two lutes wove their plaintive voices together with quiet grace; soprano Renata Fusco was less delicate, instead matching her earthy chest voice, tremulous ornaments and brassy mannerisms to Caravaggio's most garish side. Who knows; for the soldiers toiling away with such paltry means 70 years ago, perhaps Fusco's lavish singing was exactly the escapism they dreamed of.
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
George Benson might have to write an addendum to the autobiography he's about to release. The subject: "How I introduced Lilliana de los Reyes to a world-wide audience."
Ms de los Reyes is essentially the Benson band's new percussionist and backing vocalist - she joined last month - but the sound that came first from the vocal mic on her percussion riser and then later in a brief duet with Benson carried the sort of magic that makes audiences sit up and take notice.
Her dad, Walfredo, is a bit of legend in Californian music circles, too, adding weight to the Sheila E(scovedo) comparisons, so her sidewoman career might not be too prolonged.
Benson's shows these days may be a kind of aerobics exercise cum karaoke for those of a certain age, as he has the auditorium up, down, shaking it all about and singing their heads off, but the musical quality that got him where his percussionist could be heading remains intact.
After a couple of rather polite opening instrumentals he and the band dug in with a crisply executed, sincerely sung programme that wheeled from the good-time grooving pop-soul of Love Times Love to the smooth balladry of In Your Eyes and on through to Give Me The Night, with the audience back on its feet at the "toot toot" of its guitar intro.
The guitar sat out on a few songs but when Benson picked it up again he displayed dazzling, bluesy double-stopping chops, adding a scatted solo to Feel Like Making Love that along with the vocally intricate Moody's Mood For Love, eloquently announced "got jazz if you want it".