Celtic Connections: The Music of Craig Armstrong, Tue 27 Jan 2015 (4 stars)

Celtic Connections: The Music of Craig Armstrong, Tue 27 Jan 2015

Credit: Simon Murphy

Local boy's homecoming gig with Scottish Opera and guests is understated but impressive

Craig Armstrong’s mum has only one proviso regarding his music: ‘Please don’t put any funny notes in it’. She needn’t worry – her son has not become one of the most sought-after composers in Hollywood by turning out avant-garde works. Armstrong’s style is commercial, at times conventional and, in the context of this concert’s mix of song and soundtrack, often as understated as the modest man himself.

Armstrong’s name is on the ticket but he appeared to be a reluctant star attraction, often turning the spotlight on to guest players and singers and even deferring his seat at the piano to Lynda Cochrane of the accompanying Orchestra of Scottish Opera during the film soundtrack segments. Yet you could sense what this concert meant to Armstrong, playing some of his great screen hits (from Romeo + Juliet through to The Great Gatsby) to an audience of his peers in his hometown.

His guest vocalists included old friends Jerry Burns and James Grant, crooning expertly on the sublime ‘Nature Boy’, and young bucks Alistair Ogilvy and Ryan Joseph Burns, who channelled a bit of The Blue Nile’s Paul Buchanan into his solo spot. Lucia Fontaine recalled another of Armstrong’s old pop cohorts, Sharleen Spiteri, with her bluesy pop voice, while Katie O’Halloran brought a touch of musical theatre to ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’ (from Armstrong’s Moulin Rouge soundtrack), with the orchestra giving it some melodramatic welly.

There were traces of his trip-hop roots, arranging strings for Massive Attack, in a couple of his original instrumentals, though the ambient film of cloud formations which accompanied the limpid jazz piano and dreamy strings of ‘Weather Storm’ was surplus to requirements. Sadly, there was no sneak peak at the visuals to go along with the preview of Armstrong’s score for Thomas Vinterberg’s forthcoming film adaptation of Far From The Madding Crowd, just the knowledge that Armstrong remains on a creative roll.

Reviewed at Celtic Connections 2015, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Tue 27 Jan.

The Music of Craig Armstrong featuring The Orchestra of Scottish Opera & guests

Though he’s now at home in the most glittering celebrity circles, sought after by the world’s top movie-makers as well as stars like Madonna, U2, Tina Turner and Massive Attack, Scottish composer and musician Craig Armstrong still credits his Glasgow birthplace, which remains his main base, as being fundamental to his…

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