Had you asked me the following morning what there was not to enjoy about Flint and Pitch’s second Lyceum Variety Night, I’d be at a loss for words. Probably I’d manage to say that it had all been too genteel and non-confrontational – like a date you’ve been introduced to by your mum. Prominent in the memory would be a raffle, a style of compering, swathes of people sipping wine and telling each other just how much they were enjoying every single act; rarely the acts themselves.
Not that there wasn’t plenty to be excited about. Champion slam poet Adele Hampton and Highland-born folk musician Rachel Sermanni provided the evening’s star turns, with Hampton delivering pieces on weightlifting, homelessness and how the forthcoming alien apocalypse was a metaphor for displacement, all with a deftness and gravity which belied her shaky nerves. Sermanni, meanwhile, began her set with a cover of Johnny Cash’s A Thing Called Love before proceeding to a trio of quietly devastating tracks that left me wanting far more.
And perhaps that’s it – in the end, almost everyone who took to the stage would have benefitted from being given an entire act to themselves rather than being crammed into a twelve-minute variety slot. Thus we had a few friendly pieces from Aidan Moffat, fascinating précis of the lives of great Scottish women from Gerda Stevenson, and a quartet of clever monologues about sleep from Colin McGuire (booked the night before in place of an ill Don Paterson). All just enough to enjoy; never enough to really satisfy.
Only one act left a genuinely bad taste in the mouth. Clowning songsters The Creative Martyrs proved the epitome of middle-class satire, targeting cold topics like book-banning as if it were still the 1960s. The low point came early, with their turgid song about Alan Kurdi. When asked if we remembered his name, several around me muttered it under their breaths – but little did we know we were being prompted to call it out like a pub quiz answer. The Creative Martyrs stared at our silence and then said it, adding: ‘don’t worry, we had to look it up too’. Thus was liberal guilt assuaged for another Sunday night.
Fortunately, the final word belonged to brass-flavoured Glasgow sextet Pronto Mama, who ended the evening with their brilliant a cappella tune Sentiment, and its closing line: ‘should I try, or should I just go get pished?’ A far more sensible rhetorical question – and, thankfully, one to which they had the tact not to expect an answer.
All photos by Chris Scott.