Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Eddi Reader - Aberdour - 2008

Eddi Reader at Aberdour Festival 2008.
Photo courtesy of Roj
27th July 2008

Aberdour Festival

If you are prepared to dig really deeply back into the links to your left-hand side, you may actually be able to unearth a pic of Eddi Reader in a previous incarnation.  Not, as perhaps may be expected, as a Fairground Attraction but as a member of The Gang of Four; a fifth member in fact, if that is not too much of an oxymoron.

For Eddi (or Sadenia, to use her Sunday name) spent a few years during the early Eighties earning her corn as backing vocalist and occasional percussionist with the Leeds-based post-punk outfit, performing with the band at the 1982 Gateshead Festival.

In 1988 she enjoyed rather higher profile success fronting Fairground Attraction; a group built around the not inconsiderable songwriting talents of erstwhile Jane Aire and the Belvederes’ guitarist Mark E Nevin.  Their debut single Perfect (which as a pop song, it almost is) was a number 1 hit in the UK, and could be heard blaring out of pretty much every radio during the summer of that year.

Fairground Attraction are often dismissed these days as your archetypal One Hit Wonder, but folks often forget that the almost equally entrancing follow-up Find My Love also graced the UK top ten.  Additionally, for those of us who took the time to investigate the associated album First of a Million Kisses, there were all manner of delights contained therein.  Not least the slightly naughty Clare and the heart-rending beauty of Allelujah.


For reasons detailed elsewhere Fairground Attraction fell apart during the recording sessions for a follow-up album, with Eddi subsequently embarking upon a successful solo career.

Her debut album Mirmama featured a number of well-chosen covers, including a rumbustious run through of Loudon Wainwright’s The Swimming Song, plus Fred Neil’s soaring Dolphins.  I felt the rendition of My Old Friend The Blues to be less successful; Craig and Charlie Reid already having taken out the Caledonian patent on that particular one.  The stand-out cut opened the album; the soulful take on Si Khan’s folksy What You Do With What You’ve Got elevating the song immeasurably.


Her second (self-titled) collection paired the singer with the preposterously talented Boo Hewerdine; whose composition Patience of Angels saw Ms. Reader back in the UK singles charts.  Another highlight on the album was Dear John.  Written by Kirsty MacColl who, as she was going through a divorce at the time from Steve Lillywhite, offered the song to Reader.  And Eddi’s interpretation is just stunning.

Throughout the rest of the Nineties, Eddi continued to release albums, but each appeared sell fewer than the previous until, by the time of 2001’s Driftwood she was releasing and distributing the album herself.  Her career took a major turn in 2003 when she released an album of Robert Burns' songs.  This interest in The Bard’s stuff was not a new thing, for a version of Ay Fond Kiss had been recorded with Fairground Attraction back in 1988.

These new interpretations were widely praised, and thereafter traditional Celtic music has played an even larger role in her output, both recorded and live.  And I would opine Oor Eddi has since become (if she was not already before) that most precious of things: A National Treasure.

This particular concert took place in a large marquee, as part of the 25th Aberdour Festival.  Enticing Eddi and her band along must have been, I imagine, a major coup for the organisers.

Before the headliners arrived were treated to half-an-hour or so in the company of Albanach; a collection of hairy Highlanders who came on and initially battered away at drums of varying sizes for a couple of numbers.  I did wonder how they were going to retain our attention for 30 percussive minutes, but fortunately they were far from being one-trick ponies.  One of the guys could play the pipes, whilst the lady of the troupe had a wonderful voice and performed a pointedly political song bemoaning how we Scots have allowed our country to be stolen by our southern neighbours.

Given Aberdour (rightly or wrongly) has a reputation as a haven for wealthy White Settlers; I did wonder how this song was going down.  Most likely much of the audience found the accent impenetrable.

Eddi’s band when they pitched up included Boo Hewerdine, I was pleased to note.  Ms. Reader’s slightly anarchic approach to set listing appeared to be a constant source of comedic frustration to Hewerdine, who would be frantically retuning his guitar in order to perform an expected song, only for the singer to change her mind halfway through her lengthy introduction. 

Eddi was entrancing; not only was her voice divine, but she combined that perfect blend of wit, beauty and talent I find so irresistible (and equally intimidating) in a woman.  “You know that thing where we all go off stage and you clap and we come back on again”, she impishly suggested towards the end of the evening.  “Well let’s not do that.  We will just play another couple of songs and then finish.”

Most of the tunes I have mentioned above were aired, plus a number of the Burns’ ones: Aye Fond Kiss and My Love is Like a Red Red Rose, I do recall.

Quite what the Aberdour White Settlers made of it all I am unsure, but Wife and I certainly enjoyed the evening immensely.     

Eddi Reader at Aberdour Festival 2008.
Photo courtesy of Roj

Eddi Reader at Aberdour Festival 2008.
Photo courtesy of Roj

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