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ConcertsRyan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts 20th June 2019 Edinburgh Bannerman’s

Posted on Sunday, June 23 2019 @ 00:12:20 CDT by Steven Reid
Concert Reviews

Fresh from the release of the stunning ‘This Is The Sound’ album which has come to fruition through Little Steven’s Wicked Cool record label, Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts arrived in Scotland on the crest of a wave of critical acclaim and with their best set of songs to date. Live this band have evolved into one of the tightest outfits around but even more crucially, they seem to enjoy the whole process so much more than most acts you’ll encounter. Ready to soak up the sounds and to join the party, Sea of Tranquility’s Steven Reid was there…

After a brief and rather odd set from Isaac Brutal, who not only couldn’t decide what their actual band name is, but from our vantage point looked liked they’d rather be just about anywhere else but on stage and a much more successful outburst from local lads Rocketflare, the strains of AC/DC’s “Back In Black” announced Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts onto the stage. Togged out from head to toe in a selection of black shoes, black trousers, black jackets, black shirts, black ties and black waistcoats, the band have taken on a serious, almost sombre look for this latest tour to support the rather wonderful ‘This Is The Sound’ album, but in all honesty, solemnity couldn’t be further from their agenda.

Recent single “Mamacita” is how Ryan and his Ghosts introduce themselves, and it’s clear from the off that they not only mean business but that they’re also here because they want to share the passion, belief and excitement they have for this latest album. With that release rocketing up the charts and gaining well deserved praise in the process, new songs pepper the set; the sparkling melodies of “Falling In Love” even more seductive on stage, while “Far Cry” jostles intently with the joy this band are so keen to bestow on their followers.

Early on however, a battle ensues, the opening section of the set becoming a case of Man Vs Microphone. The initial rounds saw Ryan take a few quick jabs as the mic-stand slipped, twisted and refused to conform, before looking to have landed a killer blow during “Strength In Numbers” when it decided to slowly rotate on its bearings. This rather bizarre turn of events saw the singer try a velcro effect of using his beard to hold the offending amplification device in place, but with his bristles in danger of being torn from their moorings he finished the song facing the crowd, but side on to the microphone itself. In an intentionally hilarious fit of pique the stand was twisted, tightened, waggled, shoved and slammed into place and much though Ryan was insistent that he’d “tech’ed the shit out of it”, eventually the sound man scurried through the crowd to repeat the process after the singer seemed to have finally come out on top.

Presumably it wasn’t because of this turn of events that for the first time in the four or five occasions that I’ve seen this band, Ryan put his guitar to one side and allowed the stunning fret talents of Dave Winkler to take control as the tall-hatted Texan segued into holding the mic and becoming a bona fide frontman. It’s a cool move, the hugely likeable singer prowling the stage, grinning, gurning and in between slugs of the red stuff, howling his heart out. It’s hard to take your eyes off him as the Hami-Classic “Oh My God” brings his homeland into the sweaty confines of Bannerman’s, while “Be Kind Rewind” grows into a huge sing along. And that’s saying something considering the constant motion that is Rob Lane on bass, the four string master looking razor sharp with his slicked back hair and shaven sides. He also had better luck with his flick the plectrum in the air mid song and catch it trick than he did the last time the band played in this venue. I’m guessing that Rob read my review of that night (I caught one of his errant plec’s that evening) because tonight he expertly flicked his pick at top velocity straight into my unsuspecting forehead before it deflected neatly into my chuckling mate’s arms. In fairness Rob did then give a sheepish glance in my direction by way of apology!

With sticks constantly twirling drummer Mickey Richards is equally eye catching, while keyboard player and rather excellent backing singer Carol Hodge could barely stop grinning all night, her purple fringe and green love-heart earrings out dazzled by both her pearly whites and her forays up and down the keys that illustrate just how integral her talents have become to this band’s sound.

With the mood and atmosphere one of shared on and off-stage celebration, Ryan was loathe to bring things down, but the message of be strong, be true and be yourself behind “Freak Flag” is too important not to highlight. While the sentiment and emotion driving “Won’t Stop Now” almost had the singer in tears, although that didn’t stop he and Hodge giving an amazingly controlled and heartfelt rendition of the almost acapella piece.

That there’s a genuineness and integrity at play here that you don’t often feel coming from a stage of rock n’ rollers is also something that can’t go unmentioned. And when Ryan thanks those in attendance for being either newcomers to the cause or long terms companions on his and his band’s musical journey, it feels like much more than the glib ‘we love you’ that so many outfits throw around without any real intent.

With Bannerman’s being configured in such a way that the musicians have to navigate their way through the crowd to get on stage, the usual encore charade was thankfully eschewed as we tumbled headlong into the closing duo of “I’m So Glad” and “Ode To The Idiots” with barely a care left in the world. And of course a huge ovation was assured and undoubtedly well earned. Naming an album ‘This Is The Sound’ is a bold statement, but yet again Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts lived up to that intention. If they get what they deserve it’ll be the sound we’re all living our lives to for many years to come.


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