Meursault traverse

LIVE: Meursault / Faith Eliott – Traverse 1, Edinburgh, 26/02/2024

Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre is pretty steep when you enter. But having parked myself and son near the top of this theatre, it did mean that we a) got a great vantage point without any tall people standing in front of us ruining the view and b) avoided falling down into the darkness and embarrassing ourselves. Of course, being a theatre than a rather more conventional gig venue it’s harder to take notes on your phone. This is probably A. Good. Thing. and it appears that theatre ushers have to deal with a lot of grief these days.

Like tonight’s headliners, Glasgow-based Faith Eliott was once signed to the city’s late Song, By Toad Records. Not to be confused with the opera singer of almost the same name (this one only has one ‘l’ when you go and search for them, which I hope you will), they take to the stage with just an acoustic guitar, clad almost head to toe in red (I think those are green socks, but at this height, who can tell?) It’s been a while since their last album, Impossible Bodies, but there’s something beguiling about them and their very individual style of songwriting. They are working on a new album, and I’m hoping tonight’s (unnamed) highlight is on it, an extraordinary song that concerns a fire on a cargo ship in the middle of the Atlantic in which a lot of luxury cars on their way to America went up in smoke. They have power enough that they exit the stage having stepped away from the mic and unplugged their guitar and carry on up the stairs and out. That’s style.

The last time I saw Meursault, Neil Pennycook and his merry gang were playing a couple of miles away at Leith’s Pianodrome. That was after the release of their latest and self-titled album, one of last year’s best. Tonight it’s Neil and two of the band, Calum Macleod (guitar and bass) and Fionnbarr Byrne (guitar and electronics). Whereas that gig was focused on the latest album (what with it being a launch and all), this is a career spanning set. The three give us an opening salvo of ‘William Henry Miller,’ ‘Simple Is Good,‘ and ‘Crank Resolutions.’ Having watched Neil and associates develop over fifteen years, it’s great to hear some of these, well, not oldies exactly, but lesser aired songs getting another outing. The mix of folk and electronica is perfectly executed.

Neil alludes to an accident that meant what they were going to perform having been changed within the previous 24 hours or so, but this was still worth coming out on a school night for. His warm humour is a perfect counterpoint to some of the heartbreaking sadness within the songs, and it still breaks me when he sings ‘and if you’ve nothing nice to say, try singing it to me‘ on ‘Meursault‘ (the song). With a set also featuring ‘New Ruin‘ and ‘Art School‘ there’s no shortage of past and present songs to entertain us with. Not only that, it’s great to hear tracks from the debut Pissing On Bonfires/Kissing WIth Tongues being given an airing like ‘A Few Kind Words‘ and ‘A Small Stretch Of Land.’ The latter is performed by Neil solo, with guitar, guiding us gently out into the night.

An intimate gig by one of Scotland’s best songwriters in a venue that seems to be doing more of this more often. Those attending the forthcoming German tour are in for a treat.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.