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There is always a buzz on the first full night of Celtic Connections. Ahead of two weeks choc-a-bloc full of events, you can feel the excitement in the air as everyone is fully prepared to immerse themselves into a non-stop musical extravaganza.
With a plethora of events on offer this evening (and it’s impossible to attend them all), some venues are left emptier than others. This isn’t the case for Delgres who open the extensive programme at Drygate this evening. The venue is near-full long before they’re onstage and those who made the decision to get down early are treated to an excellent set of blues jams from Mama Roux. Full of improvisation, energy and electrifying solos, they open the show with a vigour that leaves the crowd baying for more.
Luckily Delgres are more than capable of giving them it. From the off, the three-piece, led by Pascal Danaë, deliver a set full off meaty riffs backed by an immense rhythm section. They take us on a journey through Guadeloupe and the West Indies to Louisiana and their material reflects the multicultural diversity. The double salvo of ‘Can’t Let You Go’ and ‘Respecte Nou’ which opens the show, are drenched in the Delta blues but with modern sensibilities, akin to The Black Keys.
The majority of Delgres’ material this evening is sung in Creole, but there is no escaping the political punch which Danaë packs into his lyrics. The band is named after Louis Delgres, a Guadeloupean Creole colonel in Napoleon’s army who martyred himself, and when the frontman explains the origins of his songs, it is clear where his heart is. ‘Mo Jodi (Die Today)’ is dedicated to the freedom fighters of the world, and ‘Sere Mwen Pli Fo (Hold Me Tight)’ is about the families in Guadeloupe who were separated by the need for slaves to flee the country. The latter song is the first proper “moment” of the night. A break from the full-on blues and providing a brief interlude of melancholy, there are gorgeous harmonies shared on the chorus with drummer Baptiste Bondy, who unleashes a pulsating beat when the track kicks in as it reaches an uplifting crescendo.
As the main set concludes with a rowdy ‘Lanme La’ and a version of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’, sang in Creole, there is no way the Glasgow audience are letting them leave without an encore. Luckily, they still have the rousing ‘Anko’ up their sleeves, complete with pummelling drums and a wonderful hollering chorus before the three-piece leave the stage to a standing ovation. It’s nothing less than they deserve.
With Celtic Connections being renowned for its diversity, Delgres still manage to bring something different to the table - it’s not every night that you witness a sousaphone solo. Drygate is in the presence of three immensely talented, and most importantly, passionate musicians and Pascal Danaë is an engaging frontman. This may be their first visit to Glasgow, but it certainly won’t be their last.
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