Brooklyn trio The Lone Bellow make their return to Celtic Connections following a fantastic set at the sadly-missed ABC in 2018. This time they bring their TRIIIO show to these shores after a successful run in the USA, which involves the group huddled round one mic and stripping their material to the bare bones, with their vocal talent brought to the fore.
The first couple of songs are plagued by latecomers, which initially disrupts the delicate nature of the performance, however the bluesy stomp of new track ‘Good Times’ asserts their control over the room. A beautiful ‘Two Sides of Lonely’ is an early highlight, with powerful harmonies echoing through the auditorium. It’s not all hushed balladry though, as the New Yorkers perform crowd favourites, with audience participation being mandatory. ‘Time’s Always Leaving’ is joyous, before guitarist Brian Elmquist takes the lead on ‘Heaven Don’t Call Me Home’, which involves a terrific call-and-response led by frontman Zach Williams.
The group are an engaging and charming presence onstage, joking with the crowd and each other throughout, even finding space to include segments of The Proclaimers’ ‘500 Miles’ into their performance. On the last date of their UK tour, they are on top form and make frequent references to the after-party leading to Williams accidentally revealing his hotel room number (he does ensure not to name the hotel, much to the dismay of his many admirers). The Lone Bellow are as closely knit a unit as can be, and it emanates from the stage. Each member seems to have a designated role - Williams the master of ceremonies and soulful preacher, Elmquist the guitar virtuoso and Kanene Pipkin the vocal powerhouse, tying the everything together with assured ease and exceptional harmonies. When Pipkin does take lead vocals though, it is wonderful. The gorgeous ‘Call to War’ stuns the audience into a wowed silence, and draped in beautiful light, ‘Power Over Me’ is delivered with a powerful emotive spirit.
Elmquist takes the lead for new track ‘August’, and precedes it with a tribute to Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison. With Hutchison being a close friend of The National’s Aaron Dessner, a collaborator with both musicians, his passing clearly affected Elmquist and there isn’t a dry eye in the house when the refrain of “a hand to hold, there is love all around you” rings out.
As the trio end with a joyous ‘May You Be Well’, Williams delivers the final verses in spoken word form, providing a directness to the overarching joyous message of the song. Returning for one final singalong, the wonderful ‘Watch Over Us’, they leave to a rapturous standing ovation. The TRIIIO shows are a bold move from the group, but with such impressive vocal talent coupled with material which enables them to express their talents, they perform a stunning set this evening.
A photo gallery of the show is available to view at the following link (All Photographs courtesy of Stewart Iain Fullerton Photography):
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