FolkWorld Live Review 2/99:
Who would have thought that there is a time when Wolfstone has to struggle to follow his support. Well the time is there - while the Alain Genty Band was simply brilliant, for me Wolfstone were the Celtic Connections flop 1999.
But let's start with the happier side of things. The Fruitmarket with the standing audience is just the right place to see the Alain Genty experience. Alain Genty is a bass player who has become during his ten years in the Breton folk music scene one of the most influential musicians, arranger and composer. He has played in several of the most important Breton bands, including Gwerz and Barzaz. His Breton all-star band featured the Molard brothers Jacky (fiddle) and Partick (bagpipes), Jean-Michel Veillon (flutes), Patrick Boileau (drums) and - as special guest just for the Scottish dates - Alain's Scottish friend, the guitar wonder Tony McManus.
The music is modern arranged, trancy new Breton music, with regular again appearing catchy melodies, similar to hooklines. As further special guests, five Breton pipers were invited on stage later on, adding to the folk rocky sound the huge sound of a small pipe band - quite impressive.
Actually the combination of the Alain Genty Band and the new Wolfstone was maybe better than the organisers could have thought of - two bands with the bass player as leader and musical head of the band...
This was a great start of the evening - although some of the audience seemed not to be open enough for Breton music. Or maybe they were simply too nervous to see the new face of their favourite band Wolfstone...
There had been quite a long queue in front of the fruitmarket already an hour before the concert started - a clear sign that there were quite a lot of German fans around (Germans are well-known to be always much too early anywhere!); and the concert was officially sold-out. Many many of the fans of one of the most exciting folk rock band of this decade wanted to see Wolfstone in their new face, without their lead singer/songwriter/guitarist who recently left the band (FolkWorld reported a bit more about that).
So what was Wolfstone like without Ivan Drever?
Or first the question: Who were Wolfstone without Ivan Drever?
The familiar faces were Wayne MacKenzie on bass, Duncan Chisholm on fiddle, Stuart Eaglesham on vocals and (electric) guitar; completed by Keyboarder Andy Simmers (who has been with the Wolies some time ago), Drummer Andy Sovay, guest piper Gordon Duncan, and finally a guest backing singer whose job seemed to be a bit ridiculous...
Just to say it already here: Wolfstone were this evening worse than I have ever seen them before.
The tunes of their older recordings reminded of the good old times of this band, but still there was a gap in the sound of the tune sometimes. When you heard Wolfstone before, you did not necessarily hear what huge part Ivan's guitar had in the sound, but now without him you became even more aware what Wolfstone have lost in Ivan Drever.
Wolfstone have now only Stuart as singer. Singing the songs that he has sung before, the sound was OK. But now just imagine Stuart singing in "The Diamond" not just his, but also Ivan's part ("The last of the Great Whales"). Well it was exactly like you would imagine - awful.
They played this evening also - as world premiere - several of the new pieces of their forth coming album on Green Linnet (their good old label friend in the Wolfstone history...; FolkWorld reported). As you might expect, Stuart is also the singer of the new songs. Although the new songs have sometimes very promising intros with the qualities of Duncan, the rest of the song arrangements is quite unimaginative. The songs sound these days like radio-friendly, not too original pop/rock songs with a bit of roots influence (especially in the intros).
The new tunes were not very well arranged either, with too much bass, keyboards and drums; simply not fitting to some of the mellow tunes from Duncan.
The band itself seemed to be not too convinced of their new material. Duncan - who was now elected as the band's announcer - introduced every new piece with a not very self-conscious "The next tune is from our new album, and we like it very much"; "We are very happy about the result of the next new song" It did not sound very honest...
All in all the band had a very stiff appearance on stage - you simply could not compare it to memorable concerts of the last few years.
Only when they invited as special guests Ex-Wolfie Andy Thorburn with accordeon and fiddlers Ian MacFarlane and Allan Henderson, and with them some more stage performance, on stage, the full sound and good performance could bring back some of the qualities Wolfstone once upon a time were symbol for.
Although it seemed to me that the atmosphere of this concert was by far not as relaxed as traditionally Wolfstone concerts were, and most fans seemed to be a bit unsure what they should think about the new face and sound of the Wolfies, several fans stated in the Wolfstone mailing list that they enjoyed the concert and loved the new Wolfstone. I cannot tell you what the local press said as they have not sent any journalists there at all to report - at least I have found nowhere a review of the gig.
I have to admit, I did not see the whole concert and can't tell you if the rest of it was still the same. I decided after a good hour to move on to the festival club. It was a wise decision - I just came in time to catch Rory MacLeod's and Aimee Leonard's set which was much more enjoyable for me, than Wolfstone were this evening.
This evening made clear that Wolfstone have given away their ace with Ivan Drever. Ivan had not only been the charismatic lead singer of the band, he was much more: He was composer and arranger, his guitar sound was huge part of the unique Wolfstone sound, and his appearance made up a positive and happy appearance of the whole band.
Who knows what will happen to the Wolfies in future - I for my part would not give them a huge chance to stay alive long without Ivan Drever. But who knows - maybe their new music is radio friendly enough for a success a bit outside of the folk scene...
I, for my part, would say that the duo Ivan Drever/Duncan Chisholm is now more Wolfstone than Wolfstone itself is. I am looking by far more excited into the future of Ivan Drever - he is planning quite a few solo work now - than the one of Wolfstone.
It's been a sad departure of one of the greatest folk rock bands of this decade.
Photo Credit: All Photos by The Mollis: Alain Genty & Tony McManus; Wayne MacKenzie
Drawing by Annegret Haensel; more infos on the artist in the editorial.
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© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 2/99
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