Music: Roaming Roots Revue presents Born to Run

Celtic Connections

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall


TWO things struck you with some force as you watched Roddy Hart, his band and their guest stars power their way through Bruce Springsteen's back-catalogue: one, Springsteen is a ridiculously good songwriter. Two, Roaming Roots is an excellent idea.

The opening half of this concert on the occasion of Springsteen's 70th birthday (the show is repeated at the Old Fruitmarket tonight) saw Hart and the Lonesome Fire, and the all-star line-up -- Ryan Bingham, Craig Finn, The Rails, Lisa Hannigan, Karine Polwart and Jonathan Wilson -- performing their own material, though Glasgow's own Phil Campbell, of The Temperance Movement, opted for a lovely reading of Western Stars, the title track of The Boss's most recent album.

Then Finn, frontman with The Hold Steady, did a rousing version of Jungleland, with a powerhouse sax solo by Gordon McNeil, as splendid as Clarence Clemons's was on the original.

Thereafter, the Boss floodgates opened, beginning with Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, by Hart and his band. Wilson did a beguiling version of Highway Patrolman, with Hart on harmonica and Celtic Connections' creative producer, Donald Shaw, on accordion. Hannigan's segment included a gorgeous Tougher Than the Rest; the Rails' Because the Night featured a scorching guitar solo by James Walbourne.

And still the hits kept on coming: Polwart (observing that several Springsteen songs are like mini-movies) lent her distinctive voice to The Ghost of Tom Joad, and The Rising.

Bingham evoked sighs of envy in the audience when he recounted a conversation he'd had with The Boss backstage at his Broadway show: Springsteen told him that they had both won Oscars for a song written for a film (Bingham's being 'The Weary Kind', for the film Crazy Heart). It was the cue, of course, for a powerful rendition of Streets of Philadelphia.

Hart and the Lonesome Fire's Land of Hope and Dreams was a genuine highlight, and then came the massed encores: Born to Run ("as obscure as they come in the Bruce canon", quipped Hart by way of introduction) and Badlands. The final touch was Hart and the Fire doing an elegiac version of Thunder Road.

Each song in the second half was met with appreciative volleys of 'Broooce' from the floor. And, before long, there were sporadic outbreaks of dancing from the bolder members of the audience. It was that sort of night. Beg, borrow or steal a ticket for tonight's show.