Having waited long enough for the doors to open, it is still surprising to hear none other than The Doors opening this celebration of all things Paisley. Fans of local club St. Mirren will need no explanation of the aptness of Love Street, a nod to their former stadium, particularly after a choice line from the song was immortalised as the title of a revered cult fanzine, in the 1980s. Tonight, where the creatures meet is Paisley’s magnificent 12C Abbey, historically the community’s more spiritual home.
Glaswegian soul-pop statesman and part-time pundit James Grant, commissioned to write Paisley the Untold Story, is to be our compere for this evening and does so with wit, charm and due respect to all involved. Grant may (whisper it) support another team, but quickly wins us over with namechecks of local legends.
In his opening gambit, he also dismisses any plundering of his extensive back catalogue and so we are spared the sounds of the Candybar Express pulling into nearby Gilmour St station. In his own words, “There’ll be none of that Love & Money shite tonight”. This mild profanity, not the last of the evening, is excused as “not really being a swear word in Paisley” and few appear to disapprove.
The rain that relentlessly rattles the Abbey roof is turned briefly purple, by way of some spectacular lighting of the backdrop nave and a chorus line from the PACE theatre group for a tribute to Prince and his Paisley Park legacy.
More historical material is referenced by Grant’s own interpretation of Paisley’s Slate Music, discovered in the Abbey’s vaults after five hundred years, and tonight the ancient score is brought to life by the building’s very choir. Scotland’s first ever ‘polyphonic Spree’, it could be said. A memorial to the Glen Cinema disaster tugs at the heartstrings, during which we are encouraged to “hush, close our eyes and listen” to the voices of the seventy-one children lost that day.
There continues a carousel of musicians including the evergreen Carol Laula. All the while the onstage quartet’s own strings weave and spin vigorously, their bows evoking the mills and looms of Karen Matheson’s Gaelic narrative.
Next, John Byrne is lauded as “the coolest dudes to grace Paisley’s streets” and from Cuttin A Rug of the Slab Boys trilogy testify that there is still life in his finest work. “What would a shooting star be doing over Paisley?” wonders one character.
As if in reply, Grant returns to centre stage, the absence of his once ubiquitous quiff presumably mis-casting him from the play. Aptly in the Abbey, the self-professed ‘Hallelujah Man’ honours ‘self-made man’ Gerry Rafferty. A tribute, by way of a more musical trilogy, ends with Stuck in the Middle with You bringing tonight’s congregation to their feet.
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