There has always been a special welcome for Irish music at Barrowland. The Pogues, in particular, presided over many crazy nights in Glasgow’s atmospheric east-end ballroom and the spirit of Shane MacGowan was invoked several times by Dublin quartet Lankum, currently riding high following the release of their Mercury-nominated album False Lankum.
Though a far darker proposition musically, they inspired similar levels of adulation on their first headline show at the celebrated venue – a hot ticket at the Celtic Connections festival – and opened audaciously with a ten-minute cover of traditional standard The Wild Rover which built slowly and inexorably from Radie Peat’s mesmerising solo vocal, via haunting harmonies from the Lynch brothers, Ian and Daragh, to the layering of accordion and a tolling drum beat, before milking the drama and theatricality with some very unfolksy lighting effects.
Lankum is fond of a drone, to say the least, be it on accordion, concertina, hurdy-gurdy or harmonium, but Cormac MacDiarmada’s fiddle is another star attraction, to the fore on a “jolly” jig involving a blithe whistle melody, bowed guitar, tom beat, strident shanty harmonies and a salvo of false endings.
In contrast, the noir ballad On a Monday Morning marked the small rituals, while Lullaby, dedicated to Sinead O’Connor, began with great delicacy and twinkling guitar picking before the mood turned murkier. MacGowan was also celebrated with a cover of The Pogues’ The Old Main Drag, given a harsh Lankum acapella harmony makeover.
They also made the Appalachian connection with a gothic, punky take on the closing set Bear Creek and the dramatic, infernal Go Dig My Grave, accompanied by a barrage of red lighting and the crack of drums. The tradition is there but Lankum have pulled it up by the roots and pulped it in fascinating style.