Pulling from the leftfield

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A review of The Orchestra supported by Beth McCarthy and The Ratells play Ironworks on Sunday March 2nd, 2014. (Photos of the night here.) Written by John Grocott.

Beth McCarthy 5 300x199 - Pulling from the leftfield
“The Voice” contestant Beth McCarthy

What must it be like to walk out in a 1000-capacity venue… to 25 people? It didn’t seem to faze current “The Voice” contestant Beth McCarthy, who breezed through a five-song set (3 original songs, bookended by KT Tunstall’s “Black Horse & the Cherry Tree” and her Voice ‘blind audition’ song, “Sexy and I know it”) sounding perkier than Pinky’s mate.

The Ratells are from Sheffield and were apparently a bit tired from the trip up north; luckily, it didn’t show.

They have a nice line in Indie-anthemic tunes and black t-shirts, with some plangent guitar playing and a favourite of this writer – a bass player lead singer (it’s not as easy as it looks, you know…).

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The Ratells “They have a nice line in Indie-anthemic tunes”

Highlights included forthcoming single “Behind the Fire”, “Cecilia” and set-closer “Cold Love”. Haste ye back lads, and have a sleep on the coach during the journey next time.

If Beth McCarthy looked pleased enough to face two-dozen people, The Orchestra seemed a little disappointed with the 80 people that greeted their first few songs. This was part of the ELO/ELO II past-members World Tour, after all. But with ‘Rumours of Fleetwood Mac’ playing Eden Court the night before, maybe Invernessians had had their fill of ‘tribute acts’ this weekend?

The crowd gradually grew through “Evil Woman”, “Rock and Roll is King”, “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” and a mellow “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head”. Still, the wonderfully named guitarist/vocalist Parthenon Huxley commented on ‘just a couple of “woo’s!”’ that this first batch of songs produced. Both crowd and band seemed to warm up considerably from then on.

The set-list was surprisingly varied, from early tracks “Ma-Ma Belle” and “Showdown” through to classic singles “Rockaria” and “Livin’ Thing” – the former featuring wonderful operatic vocals from Eric Troyer (Meatloaf, Tina Turner, et al).

There were also some left-field choices – “All Over the World” and an impressive “Standing in the Rain”, which made me hope for a full “Concerto for a Rainy Day”. Not to be, although we were treated to a barn-storming “Mr Blue Sky”, which, along with “Telephone Line”, showed off the bands excellent three-part harmonies – Troyer and Huxley being joined by bass player Glen Burtnick. (Wow – I have a track by him on “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”!).

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“A back-catalogue as big as ELO’s means that there will always be songs you wish they had played”

A back-catalogue as big as ELO’s means that there will always be songs you wish they had played. My camera-toting concert-buddy had a hankering for “Wild West Hero”, while I would have been overjoyed to hear “Turn to Stone”, “Horace Wimp” or – how about this for left-field? – “Poker”. Still, with perennial favourite “Do Ya” ending the gig, and “Don’t Bring Me Down” providing a rocking encore, the band were greeted with far more “woo’s!” at the end of the night.

The Orchestra include long-time ELO violinist Mik “Violinski” Kaminski, and original string-arranger Louis Clark, while the rest of the band (Troyer, Huxley and Burtnick, joined by Bev Bevan replacement-drummer Gordon Townshend) hail from the USA.

There were about 150 people who were very glad that they had travelled all the way to Inverness on a cold Sunday evening. Maybe, if they return, a few more people will pick these guys over Fleetwood Mac??

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