Aidan Moffat's Valentine Revue - Oran Mor, Glasgow, Wed 16 Feb 2011
Aidan Moffat's standing on stage at Oran Mor, bathed in the seasonal glow of a red light, singing about how he'd probably stick by his girl even if she had some sort of debilitating brain disease. He's here to sing about love, and that's about as straight-down-the-line romantic as it gets – but then anyone even faintly familiar with Moffat's oeuvre would have known this probably wasn't the place to bring a new squeeze for a night of hearts, flowers and the innocent hopefulness of young love.
In fact, he does use a lot of the familiar imagery of love songs -- he'll patter on about the stars, the sky, the mountains and the flowers, only to suddenly bring you up short with some crude, earthy, cutting punchline. Her promises at the start of the show that tonight's three sets will follow the trajectory of a relationship, with the cheery, hopeful stuff in the first set with the Best Ofs, the maturing and developing stage in the new material he's showcasing with Bill Wells, and then, in his solo set, 'the really dark stuff'. But to the untrained ear, it sounds pretty dark from the outset: the brain disease number appears about four songs in, although he does later deliver on a promise to follow it up with a darker sequel, which turns out to be a kind of lobotomy lament. Never let it be said he didn't warn us.
Musically, the night reaches a climax in the set with Bill Wells. With the latter on tender, melting piano, plus viola and double bass accompaniment, there's plenty of dramatic height to the music for Moffat to completely undercut with his deadpan words. Compared to this material (some of which is new, some old but in new, piano-centric arrangements), the songs in the first set seem crudely simplistic if merry enough and often very witty.
When he returns for the third set, mini-harp clutched to his bosom, Moffat is on a roll, the sharp edges of his lyrics slicing through the incredibly dark matter at hand. He plays a song about polyamory on 'This Morning', quips 'here's another one about group sex,' and plays 'Double Justice', before mentioning that his mother's in the house tonight.
How she feels about her son's baring of his brittle, passionate and brutally perceptive soul on stage is anyone's guess, but surely one thing any mother could relate to is a lovely singing voice. A crooner's rich timbre with a Falkirk burr, it can send shivers up the spine as it gets low, low down. And ultimately it's all about the delivery: Moffat's got star charisma, albeit of an unconventional kind. We came for a one-off, and boy did we get one.