Party on The Moor
Ridge DVD RRD074
SAY what you like about Runrig — and few Scottish bands inspire such levels of devotion or loathing — Gaeldom’s prime musical export know how to throw a party.
So for their 40th anniversary the band who brought rock music to Gaelic and Gaelic to the rock charts, Runrig needed somewhere worthy of the occasion.
Having previously rocked up Edinburgh and Stirling Castles, Loch Lomond and Loch Ness (sadly forever destined to be remembered more for the horror of its weather conditions than the quality of its music) it was only fitting that a band with their hearts in the Highlands decided to mark their Ruby Anniversary in the north.
A farmers’ showground at Muir of Ord might not seem the most glamorous of venues, but it certainly proved fit for purpose for the event with room for an impressive 16,000 fans.
Some of those fans had come a very long way — significantly this concert film has been shown in selected cinemas in Germany, though not in Scotland.
"I even hear there are people from Dingwall," Rory Macdonald quips at one point, receiving confirmation in a Ross-shire accented cheer.
For those who were there, this DVD is the perfect souvenir and for those who were not, it is the ideal introduction to what Runrig are all about, though whether it would win over those Runrig-sceptics is a different matter.
With snapshots from the Showground in the build up to the band’s appearance to set the scene, perhaps tempting gig-goers to look for themselves in the crowd shots, this is a straight ahead record of the show with only the odd inserted clip, like a helicopter-eye’s view of the Hebridean machair to distract from the band doing what they do best, playing to their devoted fans.
A 40 year career means there are a lot of songs to choose from and Runrig did their best to pack in as many as they could, reflected in the DVD’s weighty running time of two hours 48 minutes.
With no new album to support, this makes for plenty of old favourites to sing along with, though it is seven songs in before Runrig gave their first taste of Gaelic with the anthemic Siol Ghoraidh.
Julie Fowlis, a leading light of the generation of Gaelic speaking artists who have followed Runrig’s path to international success, is a welcome guest as is old friend of the band, fiddle player Duncan Chisholm, as the band progress at pace through their back catalogue.
No wonder band and viewers need a break especially after the showstopping Drum Section that brought Iain Bayne, Calum Macdonald and Brian Hurren out from behind their percussion kits and keyboards and join multi-instrumentalist Malcolm Jones to thrash some innocent looking drums to death and closes the first disc in this two disc set.
A film clip, also shown on the big screens at Muir of Ord, took the band right back to their beginnings as the Macdonald brothers play a dance set alongside fellow-founder member Blair Douglas. Sadly the accordion wizard’s only appearance of the night was to be on film. Not so with long-serving frontman Donnie Munro, who arrives on stage to predictably excited cheers while SNP MP Pete Wishart resumes his old position at the keyboards for a run of songs drawn from the group’s 1980s creative peak.
Canadian Bruce Guthro showed no concern at having any thunder stolen by Runrig’s former frontman, hugging Munro and telling the crowd it had been too long a wait for the two lead singers to share a stage.
After that, it was a straight run for the current line-up on to the inevitable mass singalong that is Loch Lomond.
The last couple of songs were something of an anti-climax and new single And We’ll Sing mainly serve to bring down the excitement levels at the end of the biggest 40th birthday party the Highlands have ever seen.