Martha Wainwright @ Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow for Celtic Connections 2013

Being born into a musically gifted family, Martha Wainwright has never been short of inspiration or influence.  She clearly carried those influences across the Atlantic for this stripped-back acoustic gig at the Celtic Connections festival in the handsomely attended Royal Concert Hall.

The Canadian made it clear early in the night that she would not be competing with her brother Rufus, who stripped completely naked at his Academy concert last month, despite their frequent attempts to out-do each other.  “I think he’s got me there,” she laughed.

The spirit of her late mother – the legendary Kate McGarrigle – was very much in attendance, particularly with Wainwright’s latest album, Come Home To Mama, being written and recorded in the months following her passing.  The pain of that loss is still fresh in her voice and bleeds out over  Can You Belive It and Proserpina, which was the last song McGarrigle wrote.

Her father, Loudon Wainwright III, is also present, although perhaps not afforded the same adulation in song as Kate, with Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole a stinging criticism of the man.  The audience was rapturous in its appreciation.

This was a beautiful gig.  The Royal Concert Hall crowd can sometimes be a little difficult to please (some might say stuffy), but there was almost universal acceptance on the way out that Martha Wainwright was a success.  Her voice carried magnificently through the sprawling venue, the guitar was played with great poise and delicacy and the set list was excellent, with just the right balance between covers of her mothers work (and one Leonard Cohen song) and a showcase of her own talent.

As though to accentuate the point, Martha abandoned the guitar for the final song of the encore, perching herself on the edge of the stage without the assistance of a microphone as she performed a quite exquisite Piaf number.  It takes a fair talent to sing in French before a Scottish audience, completely unassisted by a guitar or a microphone or any form of equipment, and Martha handled it sublimely.

Of course, it was all to prove to Rufus that she can handle “these traditional, classic things.”  It was the theme of the evening.

Cowboy Junkies @ Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Glasgow for Celtic Connections 2013

I’m convinced that everyone at some stage in their life must fantasise about what it would be like to find that they have been locked inside a museum after closing time.  You imagine wandering the empty corridors as the historic exhibits come to life; dream about interacting with them like nobody else can; having absolute free reign over this place of splendour.

That isn’t quite what happened when the doors were closed to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum last night.  Instead of discovering the Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt or investigating Bosch and Bruegel, a busy audience was treated to an evening with Canadian folk-rock band Cowboy Junkies.

Although the setting was vast and quite magnificent (if my reading of the floor plan is right the gig took place in what is normally the Royal Bank of Scotland Exhibition Gallery) it did make for a bit of an impersonal experience.  The level floor plan ensured that the further back the seating went (I found myself in row S) the more difficult the view of the stage became.

With a four volume series of albums released in the last 18 months, Margo Timmins and co were in selling mode as they, somewhat ambitiously, played a six-song run of new material early in the set.  With much of this being unfamiliar to a large portion of the audience I felt the band were swimming against the tide to bring us back into the show.

It wasn’t until they reached into their vast back catalogue for their biggest hit – a cover of Lou Reed’s Sweet Jane – that the audience once again became engaged with procedings.  The older material – particularly Blue Moon Revisited and Misguided Angel – served as a poignant insight towards what this set could have offered.

A fine cover of Neil Young’s Don’t Let it Bring You Down rounded off what was a musically good set, although the wander into unfamiliar territory so early in the set from a band who aren’t that instantly recognisable to begin with made this a difficult gig to enjoy.