After a breakout 2022 for Lewis McLaughlin featuring his debut album, Feel The Ground You Walk Upon, winning a slot at Glastonbury, and nominations in both the SAMAs and the Scots Trad Music Awards, he kicked off his 2023 by selling out his largest headline show to date at the CCA with Celtic Connections.
The show was opened by Nani, an Austrian-born, Edinburgh-based indie folk musician, who has been making a name for herself around the Scottish music scene. With her soft spoken, and (as she put it) ‘swaying encouraged’ approach to folk music, she had the crowd warmed up in no time, even bringing out Lewis for a Sufjan Stevens cover. She finished her set with a Scottish tinged folk tune, a nod to her new home.
Lewis took to the stage with his full band to a flurry of applause. Having watched Lewis’ rise, and seen him play solo on many occasions, finally getting to see him complemented by a full band was an incredible experience. The highs and lows of his music are highlighted by the band, echoing the sounds we hear on the album and despite the ensemble’s size, Lewis’ stage presence and charm weren’t drowned out. It was as close and intimate as any one of his performances.
The band setup varied throughout, and as the number of performers on stage dwindled, the opening notes of ‘Whole’ began to ring out. The softness in Lewis’ voice during the high notes of the chorus sent tingles down my spine. Nani then returned to the stage to accompany Lewis, and together they gave a poignant cover of Gillian Welch’s ‘Everything is Free’.
The night was closed with an encore, Lewis opting to play his most popular song ‘Summer’ to end. As sang the catchy hook of ‘summer and the weather is fine’, people began to sing along, and you could see what it meant to him. The look of glee and surprise on his face as he let out a ‘Oh, you guys know this one?’.