It was my first time hearing Julia and the Doogans tonight, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The five piece took the stage to a fairly small crowd, but thankfully people moved forward for the start of ‘Come Home’ giving proceedings a cozier feel. The first track won me over straight away, with Julia’s voice a projection of effortless grace. The chorus is quite lovely with the cello, piano and flute enhancing the angelic vocals, and it’s a great piece of songwriting, wonderful in its simplicity. There’s nothing rock n roll about the band, and they seem almost reticent onstage, perhaps not aware of how good they are- and they are very good- but this suited the music, and was in a way endearing. Before playing ‘Maps Of The World’ Julia informed the crowd that she didn’t have her banjo for this song as she broke it, and I can’t believe no-one came out with a snapped banjo quip, but there was no effect on the delivery, and though only the 4th song it was already clear there is a good repertoire behind the band. During ‘New York City’ you could actually hear people in the crowd shooshing the noisy gits at the back, first time I’ve heard that in The Mill, but something a lot of folk would have considered doing in there I’m sure. As the set developed band members vacated the stage as if they’d lost a game of musical chairs, but what was lost in numbers was not lost in quality. Julia played the last 2 songs by herself, a fitting end to the set, and a chance for the singer songwriter to have the stage. For the first tune we are asked not to boo, and as the song turned out to be ‘The Scientist’ by Coldplay I can understand why. I’ll admit that I was a big Coldplay fan back in the day, but ‘The Scientist’ was always one of my least favourite of their songs, so I was pleasantly surprised by this. Julia has given it her own wee touch- changed the melody a tad, given it a bit of character- and basically made me really enjoy a song I pretty much hate these days. Final track of the night ‘Glasgow’ is a tale that touches on the old firm divide, though not in a total brash and obvious way that can often be heard in songs on this subject, and paints a picture of returning home to a place you love. Usually it’s just rappers that can name drop their city and get away with it, but Julia manages it here with ease.
Tonight was also my first time seeing Be A Familiar live, though I’ve had them on the Ipod for quite a while now. I’ve been a really big fan of the recordings they have put out thus far, which have been fairly acoustic driven, but the band are a completely different beast live. As ‘Tiptoe’ broke in I was immediately taken aback by how big a sound they have and how much of a punch they deliver live. It just sounded so massive and professional, really impressive and surely destined for much bigger stages. It’s clear this is a band that believe in what they are doing, and so they should. Each member looks the piece, all with their own wee style, and each looks fully invested in the band and their show, which is great to see. One thing that stuck out for me in this respect was their horn player. Quite often when horn or string sections don’t have pieces to play you can see them on stage looking a bit bewildered and not sure what to do, but not this guy, he looked like he was having the best time out of anyone I’ve ever seen anywhere, going nuts on the tambourine or what I can only describe as two big sticks. Brilliant. The whole band had this vibe about them and this sort of belief and fervour for what you are doing is infectious. It really drew me in, especially as it came across completely natural and sincere. Be A Familiar’s set continued in this vein, with their male-female front duo bouncing off each other with ease, sharing duties and coming together in affecting harmonies. Probably my favourite track of the night was ‘You’d Make A Great Ghost’ which showcased the band’s great use of loud and quiet, and the ability to kick in and send a song just flying. The end of the track was just rapturous, with chanted vocals of “Dont think, say” and “I know that you want it, I know that you need it” cementing my thoughts of this being an amazing live band. The end of the night came with the quite brilliant ‘Had Your Fill’. I absolutely love this song and seeing the live version has just heightened my thoughts on it. The wandering piano and soaring trumpet perfectly compliment the beautiful melody in a chorus that I’ve got completely stuck in my head. It was just a shame this was the last track as you could see the whole band singing along to it, though only three of the seven had microphones, showing that they love this track as much as those watching must have. Always great when you go in with high expectations and a band exceeds them, and tonight was definitely one of those nights. The Mill isn’t always the best of venues, though I do like what they do there, but the sound was fantastic tonight, and the lineup came through.