Celtic Connections 2023: Ímar with FullSet and ‘Ndiaz

It was a full house in the Old Fruitmarket on Fri 27th as the music crowd gathered to witness three quite different acts.

Ireland’s FullSet have been around for quite a few years now but I only discovered them in 2021. I loved their show, a pretty damn excellent serving of contemporary Irish trad. Fine singing and playing, with the band radiating positive vibes all over the venue. Yay! 👍🇮🇪🎶

FullSet pic by me

Ndiaz, from Brittany, play a fusion of Breton trad melodies, jazz and trance electro with a pretty unique setup: sax, trumpet, drums and accordion, and something I guess was a digital accordion (do such things even exist?). A lot of noise, loud trance beats, some fragments of melodies and a stage full of smoke. The quite young crowd loved, I hated it (sorry, I have to be honest here) and my wife thought they were okay. Technically, they were brilliant, but their music is just not my cup of tea at all.

And then on stage appeared Ímar, the British Celtic supergroup whose show we really looked forward to, as they are well and truly brilliant – with musicians like that, they could hardly be anything else.

The audience really liked them, which meant constant yelling, whooping and whistling, and those who didn’t care so much about the music conducted loud conversations. This meant that enjoying the excellent music became pretty hard with all the random noise around you – or maybe at almost 57 I’m just too damn old to join the party…

Anyway, my wife realized we should move to the rear of the crowd and closer to the sound guy’s workspace where the sound should be optimal. Good call, that, and we need to do that on other unseated gigs from now on: less crowd pressure, less unwanted noise. After all, it’s a MUSIC festival, dammit.

In any case, Ímar were as brilliant as to be expected. The highlight for me was Adam Brown’s totally fantastic playing, culminating in the extended bodhran solo – very, very impressive indeed! A certain Mr. J.J. Kelly can be proud, as his influence was certainly noticeable in Adam’s playing – and not only in the style but the technical brilliance as well. The bodhran is a very demanding instrument whose simple design belies its challenges. Adam Brown has conquered those challenges, and then some. The Celtic drum has another fine champion.

Ímar pic by me

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