Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls @ HMV Picture House, Edinburgh

At one point during last night’s sold out gig at Edinburgh’s Picture House Frank Turner told how earlier in the week he had received an email from a fan outlining the history of the venue and how acts such as Queen, AC/DC, Pink Floyd and The Smiths had played there.  While the English folk-rock singer isn’t quite in the bracket of those icons he demonstrated here why he could be considered as one of the voices of his generation.

With an adoring audience of 1500 eagerly reciting every word from opener I Am Disappeared all the way through to Dan’s Song it was clear that Frank Turner writes songs that mean a lot to a lot of people.

This was a gig of punchy pop hooks and passionate choruses where every song seemed to be a favourite to someone.  Recent album England Keep My Bones was particularly heavily featured and songs like Peggy Sang The Blues, If I Ever Stray, I Still Believe and particularly Wessex Boy were met with enthusiastic acclaim, while earlier tracks such as Substitute, Photosynthesis and Reasons Not To Be An Idiot display a talent which arguably sets Turner aside as the finest British songwriter since Noel Gallagher, only without the arrogant and annoying brother.

There was a great spirit inside the Picture House as the values of friendship and togetherness were exalted in one of the best atmospheres you could experience at a gig.  It might well be that rock and roll saves us after all.

The Revival Tour @ The Garage, Glasgow

In the days of a darker past when an ailing economy left people struggling to fend for themselves and wars in far-off places tore communities apart it was left to the tradition of folk music to bring people together under a common cause.

With The Revival Tour Chuck Ragan has curated an event which seeks to breathe new life into those long abandoned traditions.  While much has changed in the world, with listeners music choices evolving and the iPod and tablet devices making the art and increasingly personal experience, some things always retain that sense of familiarity.  People are once at the mercy of a strangling economy, like their ancestors in the 1920’s and 30’s, while global conflicts are seemingly boiling daily.  Now more than ever the celebration of folk music can bring people together and give the voiceless a voice.  Here Chuck Ragan sought to do that with his talented collection of collaborators, amongst them Cory Branan, Emily Barker, Jay Malinkowski and Rocky Votolato.

This was a relentless three hour extravaganza of guitars, harmonica, banjos, fiddles, double bass and just about every other instrument you could fit onto a stage.

It is novel to see an artist, or a group of artists, enjoy performing as much as the audience enjoys a performance, but here the enthusiasm was coursing through the veins of The Garage.  The camaraderie on stage fuelled the appetite of the audience.

The format of The Revival Tour ensures that there is always something happening.  There is no support act and so no impatient pause before the headline set, and no false goodbyes before the ‘surprise’ encore.  The entire group of musicians – at least eight or nine – open and close the set, with each individual artist afforded a 20-30 minute set in between to perform their own material.  The real beauty is that you don’t know what to expect next.  There are collaborations all through the night as different artists and new instruments bound on and off stage to assist in each individual set.  When one considers that the artists have been assembled only months beforehand for the sole purpose of this tour it is extraordinary how they click together like seasoned veterans.

Cory Branan had the audience in spells of laughter with his quirky lyrics and deadpan delivery, almost spoken in a manner similar to Tom Waits or Craig Finn of The Hold Steady.  Emily Barker blew us away with her harmonica laced set while Chuck Ragan’s gravel voice and multi-instrumental talent brought the house down, particularly when he teased a future Hot Water Music tour before playing Drag My Body Down.

There are a multitude of acts on the road today – perhaps more than at any time in history – but there is nothing like The Revival Tour.  This is a unique experience where a collection of immensely talented individual musicians have assembled to guarantee a great night of music in the finest tradition of the art.

Israel Nash Gripka @ Stereo, Glasgow

With his tall, stalky appearence, long shaggy hair and bushy beard, Israel Nash Gripka looks a lot like a grizzly bear.  But his voice is anything but wild, more like Mick Jagger would have sounded if he had stayed away from the booze and the pills.

In this modest venue tucked beneath the streets of Glasgow’s city centre, with pipes running over the stage and walls which clearly didn’t take much decorative imagination, live music was returned to an era where all the performer needed was a guitar and an harmonica.  There were no audio faux pas here, though as Israel demonstrated in his last song he doesn’t even need a microphone; his voice is impressive enough to fill a small venue without it.

This was music at its grassroots best.  Every pluck of the guitar string reverborated around the room like a heartbeat; each blast of harmonica carried to all four corners; Gripka’s voice was powerful and brimming with emotion, all played out before an appreciative audience who Israel furnished with tales about his recent move from New York to a ranch in Texas, where he raised two billy goats named David Bowie and Ziggy Stardust, though “it turns out that David Bowie is a girl.”

I wasn’t overly familiar with much of Israel’s material last night, partly due to him playing a few new songs from his forthcoming new record and largely because I’ve only really listened to one of his albums (2009’s New York Town).  Though that didn’t hinder my enjoyment of his set because everything felt familiar in a way, almost like a long lost friend.

Of the songs I knew, Fools Gold was a fine opener and Goodbye Ghost was a chilling harmonica-laden ballad, while Red Dress was jaw-droppingly beautiful.

Sometimes live music doesn’t have to be all about elaborate sound production, strobe lighting and a multitude of big instruments.  When it is stripped back to just a guy with a guitar and harmonica it provides moments of true beauty.  All I can think about is this man’s voice; it’s a true treat.

Jack White @ Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Expectations are a difficult thing to manage.  The greater they are the further they almost inevitably fall short.  This wasn’t a bad gig, but the tall expectation of a classic was swiftly hampered by an awful sound system which almost rendered Jack White’s vocals inaudible for large portions of the set.

In a picturesque setting just off Princes Street, with Edinburgh Castle perched high in the distance, this promised to be amongst the best gigs of the year.  Instead, the inadequate sound consigned it to being probably the worst.  Songs like Ball & Biscuit and Weep Themselves To Sleep, which I was particularly eager to hear, were almost unrecognisable with Jack’s vocals posted missing in what can only be described as an epic fail on the part of the sound engineers.

It wasn’t all bad, though, and there was a small saving grace in the tremendous country version of Hotel Yorba, comfortably the evening’s standout moment.  Steady As She Goes and Seven Nation Army were also successful in rising above the parapet and providing a glimpse of what this set could have been.

As it was the night concluded with both of Jack’s touring bands – The Peacocks and The Buzzardos – coming together for a performance of Goodnight Irene.  Rather fitting because I also couldn’t hear that when Bruce Springsteen attempted to sing it after the plug had been pulled at Hyde Park.