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Runrig, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

ONE hundred and fifty miles away in Fort William, Runrig's songwriting brothers, Rory and Calum MacDonald were being honoured at the Scots Trad Music Awards for their services to Gaelic music.

They may have celebrated that award later. But first they had a tour to finish and an Usher Hall full of fans to hoist out of their seats. Not that this is any great challenge. Half of a small German town seemed to have decanted to Edinburgh to join their Scottish siblings-in-devotion and they had the massed jack-in-the-box routine that Runrig fans perform at gigs down to perfection.

As someone who's admired the band's achievements without growing to especially love their music, I have to say that this was an impressive spectacle. They do a great line in anthemic songs and there's much fist-pumping and almost tribal hand-clapping in accompaniment, but there's plenty of light and shade and varied dynamics, too. From full-on blue-collar rocking, we were taken through passages of reflection, acoustic sequences where guitarist Calum MacDonald and keyboardist Brian Herd strapped on accordions, and a homespun parade where the backline formed a mobile, front-of-stage drum corps.

It's stirring stuff. I could live without their Queenification of Loch Lomond, although their fans possibly couldn't, but songs like Road Trip, accompanied here by a dizzying film, and Alba have an invigorating urgency that's enhanced no end, as much of this two hour-set was, by Calum MacDonald's brilliant repertoire of electric guitar voicings. I didn't leave a complete convert, but I enjoyed watching a model lesson in giving the people what they want.

HHHH

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