'From Scotland With Love' gets Standing Ovation in Perth Concert Hall
King Creosote brought his 9 piece band (various members of the Fence Collective) to the Perth Concert Hall for an exquisite live accompaniment sound track of the 2015 film From Scotland With Love, by award-winning Director Virginia Heath, and had us leaping up from our seats in praise.
From Scotland With Love is superb: it's the story of Scotland and the story of us all. Visually, it's built entirely from archive footage. It takes you on a journey across Scotland's unique and varied landscape and former industries with fleeting portraits of the wonderful, ordinary, remarkable people who lived them.
Over a compelling, rapid journey ships are built and launched and steel girders poured and sheet metal beaten. Like waves, scenes of automated production lines with glass bottles being filled and shifted (with brutal efficiency) flip to women deftly hand-cutting and arranging Lino strips. Skeletal scaffolding supports part-built ships reaching cathedral-like into Glasgow's skies.
People are fragile and heroically strong. Within superb, grim settings both men and women throw themselves at repetitive (and dangerous) jobs in industries producing tangible goods - performing roles that have all but disappeared as jobs got automated or as whole Scottish industries died. It's a collage of fleeting, memorable portraits of people who's work was so hard it physically shaped them and the few glimpses of respite or refreshment we get; whether a quick sandwich perching on a girder, tea being sloshed into proffered tin mugs or even an exchanged look or smile brings a relief we too share.
While parents work, children raise themselves in car-less streets. A girl unsteady under the weight of the younger sibling she carries (so old and so young at the same time), children playing, accompanied by a soundtrack of railings being rattled and chanting seeps into the live music as it carries us past bedtime kisses, loving caresses and a domestic production line of crashed out children all asleep in the same bed.
It is as tender as it is compelling. In the evening, young people dance chaste promises, spinning faster and faster as the camera lens and music encourage us to want more and more - but where can it possibly go?
We tumble into wartime, and a woman waving a smiling goodbye with fear-haunted eyes, the camera pans to show whole crowds with the same odd mask slipping between pride and dread. The ocean liner slips from its berth, with tiny, anonymous arms waving handkerchiefs. Did those same arms build this ship? Will their mums ever wash their hankies again? The Second World War brings us a small battleship powering away, low in the water and peppered with proud, uniformed men. How could anyone possibly believe they would survive the ocean, never mind the war?
Bombs fall, but we are saved much of the close up horrors of war. Soon, a flock of children race headfirst down a sand dune to tumble into the sea without a care in the world. The first lick of an ice cream, an impossibly crowded Portabello beach (one little black boy's ebony body standing out against an otherwise pallid scene, tells a whole other story in a flash), a sandcastle being purposefully destroyed and the pure joy of a glittering, flashing fairground with its various mechanical arms to swing people about in the air. Hurrah! Even technology loves us again.
The film ends while we are still trying to hold onto a thousand images we care about, but before we are too overloaded to want more. Our own story is woven in there somewhere too, like a photograph album proving our parents existed before we did.
The music is a inspirational match to the edit. Ordinarily, King Creosote (Kenny Anderson) slips snapshots of his own life into songs, layering personal and intimate into songs which carry Scottish melodies seeming as old as the land itself, gently twisting and entwining around an unpredictable collage of modern sounds and quite abrupt moments. Like all King Creosote music, in the film too there is a heartbreak lying just out of reach - primal, urgent, unsettling.
The talents on stage making music happen together, gave one of the purest, most genuine performances I've ever seen, sharing smiles and exchanged looks of support which unwittingly matched every detail of the screenfuls of caring cascading behind them.
From Scotland With Love is the collective memory of our nation. As audience at Perth Concert Hall last Wednesday, with the unfurling Corona Virus pandemic gathering in the wings of our society (and with no doubt that it will become the next line in the story of Scotland's people), everything in the fragile, beautiful film and music montage told that touch is the realest thing that any of us have: it's everything solid which is transitory.