Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
DEPENDING on who is making the announcements, the music Imar plays can be either Manx or non-Manx. There’s a bit more to it than that, of course. The quintet got together on Glasgow’s vibrant young traditional music scene and comprises musicians from Scotland, Ireland and England, as well as the Isle of Man, all of whom make their presence felt in the collective musical direction.
Following the release of its excellent debut album earlier in the year, the group is heading out on tour and the key feature of this opening night with its bumper attendance was that the spirit of the pub session scene carries on in its live performance.
There’s professional polish, as you’d expect, and the arrangements of tune sets are considered and varied in pace, but there’s also an infectious, raw boisterousness and spontaneity in the playing – and a winning informality in the presentation.
Following a slightly niggardly opening half, the second half found the group in more expansive mood, sharing travellers’ tales and encouraging the audience to sing and ultimately take over a Quebecois tune while concertina player Mohsen Amini acted choir master. The melody players – Amini is joined by fiddler Tomas Callister and Ryan Murphy on uilleann pipes, flute and whistle – form a tight frontline, playing with attention to tone and colour as well as tempo, and the rhythm section of Adam Rhodes (bouzouki) and Adam Brown (guitar and bodhran) add harmonic richness, drive and energy.
Brown’s bodhran feature was a highlight, full of cunning, imaginative patterns and sonic invention, but overall it’s the collective determination to produce musical excitement and audience-involving momentum that makes Imar click wholeheartedly.