Given that they were on before lyrical master and all-round creative genius Kate Tempest, it’s a credit to them that their performance was one of the most memorable of the night. So, we were super keen to get along to see their own headline show as part of Celtic Connections on January 27.
The venue was Broadcast, which if you’ve not been to before is a little basement bar on Sauchiehall Street. It’s a stage not dissimilar to Edinburgh’s Henry’s Cellar Bar, but slightly bigger and with a larger bar upstairs. Given our love for slightly shit basement bars (cheap beer, good people and good music seem to be a theme that runs with the basement), we were off to a good start.
Bella and the Bear didn't disappoint. Consisting of Stuart Ramage (vocals, guitar) and Lauren Gilmour (vocals, keyboard), the duo served up a live performance interspersing raw musical talent with thought-provoking lyrics and spoken word. Melodies wrap around rhythmic storytelling, at times dream-filled, at others cutting.
It’s clear that they’re both incredibly talented musicians. Stuart's guitar work is intricate but subdued and sparing. And the words are as strong as the vocals, which contrast one-another well, something made good use of throughout their setlist.
Speaking of which, spoken word/hip-hop support act C R P N T R joined Bella and the Bear on stage for a couple of engaging numbers too, reading verses under, over and in between the lyrics and strings, which also involved a violinist named Alison (whose second name I unfortunately do not know… sorry!). They formed quite the ensemble.
The end result was an entertaining, emotive showcase boasting an abundance of musical precision, originality and enticing Scottish talent. Well worth the trip from Edinburgh, even if that did mean darting away at the finish to catch a train back, only to have to sit on the luggage rack because all the seats were full. Sigh.