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Tribute and drama

Martha Wainwright

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

And you thought Rufus was the flamboyant one in the family. Sister Martha – stripped of her backing band and performing with only an acoustic guitar for cover – has a voice that can't be contained within the grooves of a record. In the studio, her delivery has become increasingly ornamental and fussy; on the stage, however, the emotional drama within each song is heightened by sudden swells of volume and perfect phrasing.

Tuesday night's set list picked cannily from her back catalogue, but was at its best when veering off into areas that probably could only be attempted in a solo setting. And so we had I Am A Diamond, from an unproduced musical written by her late mother Kate McGarrigle; Tower Of Song by fellow Canadian Leonard Cohen (rather appropriate for someone who grew up in a competitive musical household); and a Piaf-style rendition of La Vie En Rose that – although unaccompanied and unmiked – amply filled the hall.

The most touching moment, however, came with Proserpina, the last song written by McGarrigle and the beautiful centrepiece of Wainwright's latest album, Come Home To Mama. Performed alongside Donald Shaw on harmonium and Aly Bain on fiddle, it gave the show a wonderfully personal Celtic connection. Wainwright once told me in this very newspaper that she'd grown up listening with her mother to Bain's records: she couldn't have crafted a finer tribute.

Alan Morrison

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