C Duncan could be the renaissance man of pop. A classically trained musician. A painter who exhibits throughout Scotland. A designer who creates his own sleeve artwork. A performer who composes, arranges and records all his music – from the studio bedroom of his Glasgow flat.
His appearance tonight (Jan 24), at a sold out Sneaky Pete’s, is something of a coup for the venue as he comes with an impressive catalogue. A Mercury Prize-nominated debut album, The Architect, and the critically acclaimed follow up, Midnight Sun. His choral based harmonies and textured soundscapes are also championed by many among the music press and Radio6.
The gig comes as part of Independent Venue Week and C Duncan’s keenness to play is an acknowledgment of the key role these venues have in supporting up-and-coming bands. And an approving nod to Sneaky Pete’s for introducing 14+ entry during IVW as a means of encouraging the next generation of punters.
Support for the night is from the versatile, Dundee-based Andrew Wasylyk (aka Andrew Mitchell, aka Idlewild bassist, aka lead man of The Hazey Janes). For his solo persona, he has adopted his grandfather’s surname and the Ukrainian village he grew up in, Soroky, as the name of his debut album.
As expected, tracks from the Soroky album dominate the performance. Dark and brooding as the songs are, they have an elegant beauty epitomised by Park Hotel and Last Of The Loved. The stripped back The More I Believe The Less I Know displays Wasylyk’s melancholic lyricism and he holds the audience rapt till the very last note.
With such a good reception to the set, a packed Sneakys are now primed for the main act.
To a huge roar of approval, C Duncan arrives on stage with his four-piece band. The driving drum and bass rhythms of Like You Do hit the audience and are then followed by the catchy melody of The Other Side. Soaring vocals and glorious harmonies, it’s the start the audience wanted and even when B-side Sibling is slipped in, the momentum is maintained.
The backing four-piece combine effortlessly to translate the multi-layered studio sound to a live experience. With C Duncan’s obvious delight at being on stage and warm engagement with the audience, it’s as if he has taken us back to his bedroom studio for an exclusive performance.
Say is greeted with more cheers and the set ends strongly with Last To Leave and a rousing rendition of Garden, with the audience’s enthusiastic hand clapping continuing as the house lights lift.
Being labelled a Mercury Prize-nominee can often be a route to obscurity, but C Duncan has used it as a springboard to reach a wider audience. With performances like this he may yet make the leap to Brit nominee.
Words: Alan Hotchkiss