Roaming Roots Revue @ Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 26 Jan

The Roaming Roots Revue celebrates its sixth anniversary by presenting highlights of the late, great Tom Petty’s back catalogue in spectacular fashion

Live Review by Iain Dallas | 30 Jan 2018

2018's Roaming Roots Revue sees a roster of 12 songwriters from the UK and North America take to the stage, backed, as ever, by the mega-talented Roddy Hart & the Lonesome Fire, who open proceedings with a rendition of Mary Jane’s Last Dance. They are then joined by one of Scotland’s leading musical talents, Pictish Trail, who treats the audience to a passionate version of You Don’t Know How it Feels.

Next to the stage is Tennessean, Sierra Hull, an impeccably talented bluegrass artist, accompanied by an equally brilliant saxophonist and double bassist. Performing the first original number of the night, Weighted Mind, from their 2016 album of the same name, the trio’s jazz-infused bluegrass is captivating. The saxophone meanders between harmony and counter-melody while the double bass fills the Concert Hall with all the warmth of a Nashville summer. Southern Accents is a fitting tribute to Petty, performed in their unique style.

Cory Chisel & Adriel Denae then make their first appearance of the night, ahead of Willy Vlautin (previously of Richmond Fontaine) who joins the band to perform It’ll All Work Out and The Best of Everything. Vlautin pays tribute to Petty as one of, if not the greatest of all time – a sentiment that is palpable in his performance.

Alela Diane is next up, making her stamp on the Revue with her sombre, dark-country vibes. Taking to the piano to perform one original number, she follows up, with vocal accompaniment, for a beautiful rendition of Angel Dream (No. 2) – one of Petty’s more delicate creations. This is followed by a slightly more lively performance from Joel Plaskett, arguably the most Petty-like artist of the night. He dedicates I’m Yours (an original) to his wife and child who are back in his native Canada, drawing sympathetic sounds from the audience, before the band joins him for a performance of Even the Losers.

Natalie Prass follows, arguably the biggest coup for the concert organisers. Going solo, she treats the audience to the live debut of her own song, the outstanding and emotionally nuanced Lost, before making way for the band as they back legendary Scot, Rab Noakes, on Into the Great Wide Open and Runnin’ Down a Dream. Following his battle with tonsillar cancer, it’s heartening to see Noakes back in action doing what he does best, as he closes the first act of the performance.

Cory Chisel and Adriel Denae return to open the second act. As a married couple, their chemistry translates into a performance that feels totally natural and deeply loving. Their cover of Learning to Fly is excellent, but their rendition of Songbird, the duo’s most well-known track, is perfect.

The torrents of talent continue as Lera Lynn, an enchanting alt-country artist on the rise to the top, takes centre stage. Her voice drips with an apparent weight, the perfect choice for Petty’s more soulful Breakdown, the highlight of the concert, involving almost the entire band on backing vocals. Lynn is an artist to keep a very close eye on.

London’s Nerina Pallot is the next to perform, somehow managing to overcome Australian flu in the process. However, there are no signs of her being at anything other than her absolute best as she performs an original, Sophia, from behind the piano, before fronting an excellent version of Wildflowers.

Following a brilliant return from Pictish Trail, Canadian singer-songwriter Leeroy Stagger introduces himself to the audience with three songs, topped by his cover of Petty’s Refugee. Joel Plaskett then returns to perform The Waiting acoustically, an unusual but effective choice, before Natalie Prass rejoins the action with an utterly stunning performance of her own song, My Baby Don’t Understand Me, followed by Petty’s Don’t Come Around Here No More.

The whole cast of artists then take the stage for singalong renditions of I Won’t Back Down and Free Fallin’ to bring the night to a climax. The artists are full of energy as they each take their turn on lead vocals – Pictish Trail’s enthusiasm is particularly engaging.

While the guest artists have brought an exceptionally high level of talent to the concert, Hart – as ever, the consummate professional in hosting and curating proceedings – deserves as much credit as anyone involved. His band and the crew on the night can share this acclamation for pulling off such an ambitious concert without missing a single beat. Together, they end the night with a lively cover of American Girl to send the audience home smiling from ear-to-ear as they lovingly remember the great Tom Petty. This is what the Roaming Roots Revue is all about and, now a festival mainstay, many will be eagerly anticipating what Hart and his band have in store next year.