FOR a while it seemed like history might repeat itself...
The last time Runrig played a big open air show in these parts was back in 2007 for their "Beat the Drum" show at Drumnadrochit, an event so beset by unseasonably awful weather that at times it resembled more of an endurance test than a music concert.
Saturday’s downpours threatened to unlease similarly horrible conditions on their Inverness audience. However, as Beat The Drum demonstrated, Runrig fans are a hardy lot — and a well travelled one, judging by the Norwegian, German and Canadian flags in evidence at the Northern Meeting Park. They were not about to let a bit of rain put them off seeing their Highland heroes.
In the event, the rain had died away well before Donald Macdonald and The Islands (fronted by Runrig mainstay Calum’s son) and a rather downbeat Roddy Hart did their warm up sets.
However, conditions, and memories of that wet night in Drum five years ago were not lost on Runrig’s Canadian frontman Bruce Guthro when he arrived on stage to a Celtic riff on Malcolm Jones’ guitar, a rapturous welcome from the crowd and a light rainfall that barely rated as drizzle compared with the Drumnadrochit deluge.
"Runrig comes to the Highlands, the rain falls down again," he intoned.
"With your raincoats and your wellies on, you’ve come to gather with the band."
Then it was straight into "The Stamping Ground", a song from Guthro’s early days with Runrig and a suitable choice for the occasion, Inverness having always been very much Runrig’s own stamping ground. Introducing "News From Heaven" a couple of songs in, Guthro told the audience that hearing the band were back in Inverness this summer had been "news from heaven" to his ears. Given the obvious affection for the band, it was a statement that convinced far more than JLS’s supposed affection for Inverness a couple of nights earlier.
Runrig may have their detractors, but there is no band better at getting several thousand Scots to wave their hands in the air in unison.
Even a slow and almost hymn like song such as "The Ocean Road" builds up to the sort of anthemic singalong Runrig fans delight in, especially as they seem to have every word of Calum and Rory Macdonald’s songs off pat.
Having already given us a bust of the bagpipes — though Jones’ electronic set would no doubt cause frowns at the imminent Northern Meeting Piping Competition — half an hour in comes the long awaited first sound of Gaelic with a mash-up of two old favourites "An Toll Dubh" and "Cnoc na Feille". This set a group of girls, none of whom could have been born when these songs were first recorded, frantically reeling around the park, a reminder of just how diverse Runrig’s audience is in age terms.
Whether a teenager or a pensioner, the Runrig faithful were equally passionate in their support, providing Guthro with the largest backing choir in the Highlands for an eerily moving "Every River."
Guthro is not the only vocalist in Runrig’s armoury. With Rory taking lead on the Gaelic songs, keyboard player Brian Hurren, who with 11 years service is still the new boy in this long serving band, also got a solo vocal spot.
There was also delight from the audience when he came forward to join all purpose musical master Jones in providing double accordion backing to the anti-nuclear "Protect and Survive", before swapping to drum kit as he, percussionist Calum and drummer Iain Bayne all came out from behind their kit to join the front line.
Familiar crowd pleasers "Rocket to The Moon", "Alba" and "Skye" were as energetic as ever, but in a brief pause between the music, Guthro reminded the crowd that next year would mark Runrig’s 40th anniversary and for him 15 years with the band.
"It’s been interesting watching us grow old together," he mused, nicely setting up "Hearts of Olden Glory" with its hope for a place "where hearts of olden glory grow young".
When Runrig left the stage it was an open secret that they would not be away for long, and back they came with "Clash of The Ash" — and where better for the band’s energetic love song to shinty than a venue that also doubles as a sports ground?
No Runrig show can finish without their trademark interpretation of "Loch Lomond".
It is a 30 year tradition that evidently has not lost its appeal for band or the fans, who trudged away from the Northern Meeting Park muddy, but happy and no doubt looking forward to how Runrig might celebrate next year’s big birthday.