Review:  The Bathers, Woodside Hotel, Aberdour

Some musical careers crash and burn; others eventually lose their spark; but others still are fanned into flame in later life, having gently smouldered for years.

Saturday, 1st May 2021, 2:05 pm
The Bathers perform live in the Clipper Room of the Woodside Hotel

We’ve witnessed this to great effect with artists such as Leonard Cohen and Nick Lowe; if this performance by The Bathers at Aberdour’s Woodside Hotel is anything to go by, then we’re seeing it again, closer to home.

Age appears to be treating frontman and songwriter Chris Thomson well: not only do we suspect there might be a portrait in his attic; his voice – always a sonorous instrument – has, if anything, acquired greater depth with the passing years.

We received quiet intimation of this last summer, when The Bathers reissued three classic albums released on the German label Marina Records in the mid-1990s—Lagoon Blues, Sunpowder and, most pleasingly, Kelvingrove Baby.

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The Bathers perform in the Clipper Room at the Woodside Hotel

In times less extraordinary, concerts would have followed but, having been grounded like the rest of us, Thomson and his five bandmates have only now been able to dip a toe in the water of live performance.

The past 14 months have not been easy for musicians, nor the hospitality sector, and this live rendition of Kelvingrove Baby – albeit one relayed to a virtual audience – has a palpable sense of sweet release.

Thomson’s fellow musicians – among them, Callum McNair and Hazel Morrison, who played on the original recording – like the singer, have lost none of their panache.

This replaying of Thomson’s fragile masterpiece, which also featured Thomson’s Friends Again bandmate Paul McGeechan, Jane Gardner and Nico Bruce, was nothing short of remarkable given rehearsals were restricted to a single day.

As the band played with the wind at its backs, the Clipper Room’s elegant surrounds seemed an apt place to pick up the pieces – its ornate roof, salvaged from an ocean liner in a breakers’ yard, a thing of beauty given fresh purpose when it might easily have been crushed.

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