Celtic Connections

Moving Hearts and neXo

Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow

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Rob Adams

FIVE STARS

Cause and effect produced the sort of night on Friday for which the Old Fruitmarket was saved from the developers. If Moving Hearts were the trailblazers of fusing tradition with groove and a heartbeat from rock and jazz back in the 1980s, then neXo have taken the idea and made it more global.

Musicians from Scotland, Wales, Galicia, Argentina and Uruguay, songs in four languages and suggestions of further-flung flavours made this a potent scene-setter, with pipes and fiddle flying over brilliantly synchronised tambourine and drum kit rhythms, the soul of tango following guttural, primal-sounding rhythmical Welsh patois, and a feeling of joy and genuine enjoyment flowing from stage to auditorium.

Their tunes aren’t as familiar as what followed but they’re immediate enough to be picked up and joined in with by an audience that was clearly very taken with what it was hearing.

There was a real sense of community, involvement and excitement also with Moving Hearts, who appear to have found several extra gears, increased refinement and added rocking-out enthusiasm in this current incarnation. The traditional element is strengthened by a fabulous frontline that has Mairtin O’Connor’s rich accordion phrasing partnering the redoubtable Davy Spillane’s exquisite uilleann pipes and low whistle playing, enhanced at times by our own Aidan O’Rourke on fiddle, and Donal Lunny’s harmonic energy on bouzouki is rooted by bass guitarist Eoghan O’Neill’s redefining of the term “elegant punch”.

Spillane’s heartfelt longing, singer Mick Hanly’s weathered sincerity, Keith Donald’s impassioned saxophone lyricism and the sure punctuation and detail of drums and percussion as their epic The Lark sang and soared made these heroes’ return absolutely exultant.