This review originally featured in The Skinny.
Just hours after Donald Trump is signed in as leader of the free world, the sparkle and wit of Johnny Lynch, aka Pictish Trail, is the perfect tonic to lift the spirits. Emerging with a full band cloaked in silken robes to Gregorian chants, he opens with the celestial drift of Rhombus, revealing a tasseled poncho of pineapples, fronds and cacti set off by glittering warpaint and a twinkling beard.
The rousing chorus of Lionhead sounds immense – it’s a bold, melodic anthem of erasing idols and releasing the past. Words Fail Me Now follows, one of just a few older songs in the set, along with the beautiful Winter Home Disco. Dead Connection’s energy and upbeat synths belie its black themes; similarly, Easy With Either makes full use of its additional live strings, recounting Lynch’s lucky escape from a lorry load of falling logs in one of the several car crashes he’s been lucky to escape intact.
The swelling electro-pop of Who’s Comin’ In? is up next, then Lynch welcomes back-up singers the Rides of Christ, made up of Lost Map‘s Laura, Bart from Eagleowl and half of Kid Canaveral, all impeccably bedecked in nuns’ habits. Lynch’s vocal was given deserved prominence on last year’s excellent Future Echoes LP, and tonight it’s particularly strong on Far Gone (Don’t Leave), a trip-hop tribute to Fargo. An ethereal Strange Sun bursts with bird song, whilst Suse Bear’s addictive ascending bass line powers a raucous encore of Afterlife, before a supercharged take on the Bronski Beat-esque Brow Beaten by Lynch’s Silver Columns project, as some of the nuns are let loose to cut the rug down the front.
Despite an abundance of morbid themes, this Celtic Connections show is awash with colour and celebration. Pictish Trail is clearly touched by the crowd’s rapturous reception, but it’s the audience that’s most grateful for tonight’s shimmering musical antidote.