Last time Trilok Gurtu played the Old Fruitmarket, the rake sloped down towards the stage and there was a power cut. I'm still not convinced about the reversal of the layout of the venue, although I understand the reasoning behind it, but this was the Indian percussionist at full wattage.
Of all the collaborations he's featured in - and there have been many - Gurtu's meeting with the Arke String Quartet has to rank among the best. The Italians, who substitute double-bass for cello, use pick-ups to enhance their instruments' natural sounds and are not above adopting ukulele-style strumming if the music so demands, create a fabulous sound. They can be an all harmonics and flutey-toned backdrop or upfront soloists - violinist Carlo Cantini's bite and intensity is almost supernatural - or they can gang up with Gurtu in fiercely tight riffing reminiscent of the percussionist's sometime partner in crime, guitarist John McLaughlin.
Another Gurtu co-conspirator, Joe Zawinul, sprang to mind with Cantini's street-sounds-flavoured composition, Fez. And if the rowdy behaviour of a previous audience inspired another piece by Gurtu himself, such disrespect wasn't going to happen here as Gurtu seduced the auditorium with awesome percussion magic and pure theatre, culminating in the audience singing along with his intricate tabla rhythm vocables.
Earlier, another cross-cultural collaboration, India Alba, had set the scene admirably, merging adapted pipe marches with Indian violin and tabla ragas, cittern-led Scots-Indian melodies and the late Gordon Duncan's famous bagpipes setting of AC/DC's heavy-rock anthem, Thunderstruck. Along with Gurtu's gang, this quartet brought Celtic Connections 2008's Old Fruitmarket programme to a satisfying close while keeping the audience primed for future adventures.