Formed in Glasgow in 2007 by Louis Abbott, Admiral Fallow have developed into one of Scotland's finest bands, their unique brand of orchestral indie pop/rock having evolved over the course of three critically-acclaimed albums. The most recent of these, 2015's "Tiny Rewards", was nominated for the prestigious Scottish Album Of The Year (SAY) Award. This album saw the introduction of a more collective approach to song-writing, with outstanding results.
A typical Admiral Fallow gig will feature the five core members of the band, perhaps augmented by a guest musician or two. 2013's annual Spree Festival in Paisley also saw the band play a memorable gig with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO). The prospect of Admiral Fallow performing an acoustic trio set at Edinburgh's Electric Circus on 27th October, as part of a fund-raiser to support the valuable work of the Edinburgh Carers Council, was therefore very intriguing and enticing indeed.
The build-up to the main event was enjoyable, with entertaining sets from support acts, Jo Mango and The Cathode Ray, followed by a raffle prize draw conducted by event organiser, James Arthur, and his 'glamorous assistant', 85 year-old carer Rosie (who was genuinely moved when the capacity audience spontaneously burst into a lusty rendition of "Happy Birthday To You" in her honour…..).
The Admiral Fallow line-up for this special gig consisted of Louis Abbott (vocals and guitar), Sarah Hayes (vocals, piano and flute) and Kevin Brolly (clarinet, keyboards and backing vocals). The trio quickly got into their stride, the sound characterised by chiming acoustic guitar, elegant keyboard chords and runs, the light and shade provided by the flute and clarinet and, of course, the majestic vocals of Louis Abbott and Sarah Hayes, which harmonised, overlapped and intertwined to glorious effect, with Louis's delicately bruised Edinburgh burr complemented perfectly by Sarah's pure and clear Northumbrian tones. The band were clearly enjoying themselves as much as the audience, with Louis quipping that it made a pleasant change for him to be able to hear the music clearly without the bass and drums behind him drowning everything out……
We were treated to a nicely-judged selection of songs from the band's back catalogue. Each one was a delight, with the highlights including the elegant "Tree Bursts In Snow"; the driving rhythm, counterpoint vocals and singalong chorus of the breezy "Guest Of The Government"; the stunning vocal harmonies in "Beetle In The Box"; the heartfelt and celebratory 'song for young mums and dads', "Evangeline" ("…Would not have thought a month ago I could love such a tiny bundle of tidal waves as much, You should know you've made a vast improvement, Evangeline…"); and the evocative and nostalgic "Building As Foreign" ("…Coz we wore boots and football strips, Some strange clothes for a first kiss…").
The venue's intimate and informal setting encouraged some good-natured between-songs banter between the band and the audience and between the members of the band. Indeed, one such outbreak of hilarity proved so enduring that it was only possible to complete the graceful and poignant "Liquor & Milk" at the third attempt…..
Aware that Edinburgh-born Louis is a supporter of local football team, Hibernian (Hibs; the Hibees), some sections of the audience cheekily suggested that the band sing The Proclaimers classic, "Sunshine On Leith" (Hibs' unofficial anthem) for the encore. While confirming that he would be happy to do so, Louis was not convinced that Sarah and Kevin were of a like mind and so the trio brought a memorable evening of music to a close with "Subbuteo", one of the standout songs from the band's debut album, "Boots Met My Face". This song references events from Louis's early life ("…There are bangers in the wheely bins, Laser pens shone through the glass, And BB after BB fired, From behind the wall beyond the grass."). Starting off as a gentle toe-tapper, the song built steadily in intensity and was notable for a series of soaring instumental breaks, featuring elegant flute underpinned by deep tones of clarinet. Quite a finish….
This sparkling performance underlined the talent and versatility of the three Admiral Fallow band members concerned. With absolutely no disrespect to the signature full-band Admiral Fallow sound or the intricacy and inventiveness of the arrangements on their albums, these stripped-back acoustic versions of the songs sounded wonderful to this reviewer. Whether as a full complement or an acoustic sub-set, Admiral Fallow are a band to savour in a live setting.
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