If one considers the fact that he is responsible for the immensely irritating Nokia ringtone, then Thomas Dolby can certainly pull a crowd. It’s a Tuesday evening, and Glasgow’s ABC2 is full to bursting with Dolby fans keen to catch his first Scottish live date in almost twenty years.

The ABC2 is comfortable and intimate. For the purposes of the concert, rows of seats have been laid out on what would normally be the dance-floor, and a raised area with more seating ensures that the entire audience has a good view of the stage. Nowhere in the venue is one any further than twenty metres from the stage, and this makes one feel that one is very much part of the gig.

Support act Aaron Jonah Lewis and Ed Hicks provide the perfect foil to Dolby’s hi-tech electronica. The duo appear onstage in what Hicks describes as “London’s cheapest tracksuits,” and proceed to play up a storm of top-notch Americana-tinged folk. Multi-instrumentalist and singer Lewis is in excellent form, his fingers moving like lightning on his violin, banjo or guitar. Hicks also plays guitar and banjo and, while he is not quite up to Lewis’s standard, he nonetheless turns in a bravura performance.

Lewis and Hicks’ brand of Americana is highly infectious and reminds one of T-Bone Burnett’s 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' soundtrack. The pair’s performance earns them a well-deserved standing ovation after their short set. Personally I thought that a band performing acoustic folk/country would be quickly dismissed by Dolby’s fans, but the sheer quality and exuberance of the performance shone through and delighted the audience.

When Dolby appears on-stage, the sense of excitement in the crowd is palpable - these are serious fans, many of whom have waited too long a time to see their idol perform near them.

The knowledgeable crowd are treated to a long set, perfectly balancing new and more familiar material. Dolby takes time to explain each song, often sharing humorous anecdotes - Magnus Pyke’s ire at being recognised predominately for 'She Blinded Me with Science', for instance. Dolby is incredibly comfortable on-stage, and has the audience mesmerised as much with his music as with his abilities as a raconteur.

Dolby plays for around ninety minutes and manages to fit in much of his most recent album, 'A Map of the Floating City', as well as a wide selection of his earlier hits: 'One of Our Submarines', 'She Blinded Me with Science', 'I Scare Myself', 'Airhead', 'My Brain is Like a Sieve' and 'Silk Pyjamas' are all part of the fantastic set-list alongside newer material such as 'Toadlickers 'and 2010’s 'Amerikana' EP.

Musically Dolby’s band is wonderfully tight, and his keyboard work is effortless and supremely impressive. Towards the end of the set the band are joined onstage by Aaron Jonah Lewis whose acoustic input – mainly on violin – blends well with the band’s sound and lends an organic feel to proceedings.

Prior to the concert, I had assumed that, because of its technical complexity, much of Dolby’s material simply wouldn’t work onstage, but I am pleased to say that I was wrong. The entire band played superbly and coped effortlessly with what I imagine would be difficult material to translate to a live situation.

This was a hugely enjoyable gig, mixing old favourites, cracking new material and an energetic hoe-down courtesy of Aaron Jonah Lewis and Ed Hicks. I hope that I don’t have to wait twenty years for Dolby’s next visit.


The photographs that accompany this article were taken for Pennyblackmusic by John Ritchie.















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