Last night one of the most genuine, vibrant and downright heartwarming singer-songwriters in the UK stopped off in Manchester in the shape of Kenny Anderson aka King Creosote.

The Scot has released over forty albums over the years, having blessed our ears as a member of The Burns Unit, but also as an encapsulating artist in his own right.

Last year’s From Scotland With Love album also showed us that there is yet another string to Anderson’s bow. He reemerged in a blaze of glory with ‘For One Night Only’, a track that stepped away from the Celtic folk style that underlies a lot of his work, in favour of a pulsating krautrock rhythm that might have looked ill-fated on paper, but sounded absolutely sublime.

On a chilly night in Manchester, this is probably the first moment of the set’s embryonic stages that really gets the crowd moving. It doesn’t appear to be a sell out, but the impressive audience who have made the effort are enthused from the off. There’s a dour wit to Anderson’s between-song chat that has chuckles rippling around the venue all night.

He’s more than confident to try out new material, ably helped by a seven-piece backing band who bring so much to the occasion. A string trio compliments Sorren Maclean on electric guitar, adding a beautiful backdrop to Anderson’s words. The risk of such troubadours performing with such a layered backing can often be that their lyrics drift out of consciousness on the live stage, but that couldn’t be further from the truth tonight.

There appears to be an admission from Anderson that the new stuff has had a better reaction in Manchester than the other stop-offs on the tour thus far, but he has always had a certain affinity with the city, dating back to his work with the newly reformed Earlies – a fact Anderson rejoices in on stage.

The frontman addresses the age-old dilemna of the encore in typically dry and slightly awkward fashion. “We’re not that popular”, he proclaims, before explaining that half the audience would probably slope off for last orders elsewhere before the band return.

“This is the last song… yeah, right”, Anderson quips in an effort to make clear where his virtual encore would lie. The crowd are then treated to soaring versions of ‘Miserable Strangers’ and a heartwrenchingly beautiful cover of the Demis Roussos track ‘Forever and Ever”, following the legendary singer’s death a day earlier.

However, there is still one twist in the tale – as when King Creosote and his band leave for what his chat led us to believe would definitely be the first and only time, the crowd are having none of it. Rapturous applause and stamping feet persuade the eight-piece to return for a euphoric and unexpected finale.

It all culminates in by the most rock ‘n’ roll moment of the night when Anderson chooses to end things with another cover, this time ‘The Happy Song’ by his brother Gordon’s band The Aliens – whom some people might remember as forming out of the ashes of The Beta Band.

It’s a driving wig-out that in one foul swoop adds a whole dimension to the set. Another motorik-inspired rendition, it seems to keep finding new levels until it is finally time for the curtain call and the end of a bumper set is signalled. A fantastic return from a seasoned master.

Patrick Davies

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