Review: Kira Mac – Oran Mor, Glasgow

The keyword taken from tonight’s show by Kira Mac is progress. As mentioned by Kira Mac herself (aka Rhiannon Hill), the last headline show that the band performed North of the Wall, sold less than 20 tickets in advance – although more turned up on the night. Tonight it’s a different story. The “Mac Family” are out in force and are clearly up for it from the off. Through hard work, word of mouth, a strong social media presence, and of course, catchy tunes, Kira Mac (the band) have created a sense of community among their followers, and talking to a few punters gathered at the merch stand, a handful are making the effort to catch the opening 4 nights of the tour “up North” – Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow, and Newcastle. “Progress”, indeed.

Opening act JAYLER first appeared on the DGM radar when they performed an acoustic set in the campsite at last year’s Steelhouse Festival, and since then the West Midlands-based quartet have been on our “Ones to watch” list. They are young. Very young. And they are talented. Confident but not cocky, they have the swagger and the strut that comes with youth. And with the amount of equipment that they have onstage with them, they are prepping for Madison Square Garden. So much equipment that drummer Ed Evans is sandwiched between 2 speaker cabs with only his kick drum visible to those on either side of the crowd, and it’s only when he steps out from behind the kit once the set ends that it becomes apparent who was making all that noise.

Debut single ‘Acid Rain’ opens the show. Livewire vocalist Jay Bartholomew sports a Gibson SG that adds a bit of muscle to the tones that the impeccably named lead guitarist Tyler Arrowsmith is laying down, and when Jay peels off an impressive guitar solo it proves that the guitar is not just there for show. With his mass of dark curls, he sparks memories of a young pre-peroxide Joe Elliott, although, with his retro shirt wide open, there is also a hint of Robert Plant there. The hard blues rock of ‘Acid Rain’ gives way to the “Blues-inspired” ‘No Woman’ and the Greta Van Fleet, ergo, Led Zeppelin influence kicks in. Loving the swagger from the band on this one. Lots of grooves, and Bartholomew certainly can wail.

In the band’s online bio, it mentions that Arrowsmith “…loves to put on a show…” and that’s exactly what he does; whether it’s breaking out a bottleneck for the foot-stomping ‘When You Go’, pulling every guitar-God shape known to man, or even going as far as whipping out a violin bow.

With every gig played and every song written, JAYLER (completed by Ricky Hodgkiss on bass) will gain invaluable experience and grow in confidence. There are moments when the Greta Van Fleet/Zeppelin-isms stray a tad close to the line, but new songs such as ‘The Getaway’ showcase a band gradually growing into their own sound. Insanely talented. Do check them out.

In her heeled boots, the statuesque Kira Mac strides onto the stage and goes to take her standard opening position on the raised metal box that features her name at the front of the stage. She puts one foot on the box and just as she is about to rise, she notices how low the ceiling is and thinks better of it. The stage is dark – what is it with venues all over the world that only use red and blue lights to light the stage when the white lights are left untouched – and she is under the weather as it is, so a crack on the head is the last thing that she needs.

With her trusted long-term guitarist/co-songwriter Joe Worrall acting as the perfect foil alongside her – the old-school lead singer/guitarist dynamic is strong with this pair and the chemistry is evident from the off – Kira makes eye contact with everyone she can make out through the darkness. Even if you are over on the side, or loitering at the back; it’s almost like Kira is singing to you and only you. And that is a fantastic talent to have as it breaks down the barriers and makes everyone feel involved; even more so when she goes walkabout through the crowd later on during the set.

What makes Kira Mac stand out from the pack (apart from that wonderfully gritty voice, and sparkling approachable personality) is her chameleon-like qualities as a songwriter. Set-opener ‘Save Your Whiskey’ for instance, tone down some of Worrall’s guitar fireworks, and new drummer Loz Riley’s hard-hitting drum sound and you have a perfect modern Country song ready for Nashville. Likewise, the Southern/Blues-tinged ‘Scorned’ is less than six degrees of separation away from Carrie Underwood’s next hit single; Miss Underwood would certainly appreciate the take-no-shit lyrics. But if you were to tone down the fireworks from Worrall then you would miss out on some stunning guitar hooks from the guy who, according to the sticker on his pedalboard “…is a knob…”.

The C-word scare the bejesus out of you? Not a problem. Strap on the trio of ”Chaos is Calling’, ‘Play the Game’, and ‘No Way Out’ for size; heavier, and fuelled by Joe Worrall’s neck-breaking riffs that at times dip their toes in Mark Tremonti face-melting territory, and at other times go with a Black Stone Cherry-like crunching chugging vibe, the trio of songs highlight the depth and variety of the material that makes up a Kira Mac show.

That variety is showcased during a 15-minute acoustic segment that begins with Kira (sans-dudes) and an acoustic guitar on the gorgeous ‘This Time’. Simplistic, endearing, and an identifiable subject matter (having the back of your mate who is in a destructive relationship) it is show-stealing. Once the song fades out Joe appears next to Kira for a brace of covers that include a stunning rendition of the Justin Timberlake/Chris Stapleton duet ‘Say Something’ and a riotous romp through Oasis’s mass-karaoke classic ‘Half the World Away’ that raises the roof. A pissed-up crowd on a Saturday night is always going to go for it on an Oasis singalong and go for it they indeed do.

Running alongside the heavier moments and covers are the more commercial and radio-friendly bangers such as ‘Hit Me Again’ (killer basslines from new guy Vern Whitmore), the swampy ‘Mississippi Swinging’ (again, another killer tune that could go Nashville’s way), the ridiculously catchy ‘Downfall’ which sounds way beefier live (Worrall’s opening riffs are still lingering on days after the gig ended), as does set closer ‘One Way Ticket’ that has Kira declaring “…for the next 3 and a half minutes you have got to lose your fucking minds…”.

Lose your mind on one of the remaining dates:

Nottingham, Rescue Rooms – Thursday 2 May 2024

Southampton, The 1865 – Friday 3 May 2024

Wolverhampton, KK’s Steel Mill – Saturday 4 May 2024

Norwich, Waterfront Studio – Sunday 5 May 2024

Bristol, Lost Horizon – Wednesday 8 May 2024

Newbury, Arlington Arts – Thursday 9 May 2024

London, Underworld – Friday 10 May 2024

Stoke, Underground – Saturday 11 May 2024


Review – Dave

All images – Dave Jamieson




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