WHEN the world changes, you don’t have to change with it. When Covid forced us indoors, severing relationships in the wider world and leaving us trapped in Zoom calls, Roisin Murphy released a pandemic era-defining album by simply transcending it.

So when Murphy took to the stage to bring to life the futuristic disco classics from that album, Roisin Machine, at Glasgow’s Riverside Festival we reclaimed the dancefloor as a celebration of communal euphoria, the triumph of life over isolation.

The National: Roisin Murphy performed at the Riverside Festival. Credit: Tim CraigRoisin Murphy performed at the Riverside Festival. Credit: Tim Craig

We did not go gently into the good night but screaming with joy along with deep house rhythms and throwing our hands in the air with friends we made just minutes previously. It was glorious.

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The set was everything you could have wished for – extended versions of dance classics which would be huge hits in any world that made sense; a bewildering series of astonishing costume changes, some of which had not quite been completed before the singer had to rush back to the microphone; intoxicating grooves which you prayed would last all night; a sense of communion and communication more profound than cliched I love yous from the stage, which Murphy almost entirely eschewed.

This was the final performance of a festival which its director Mark Mackechnie described as one of the best yet. Earlier on Saturday, Scottish rapper Bemz boosted a growing reputation on one of the smaller stages, and hometown heroes Optimo and Romy had torn up the main arena.

The National: Roisin Murphy was a delight at the Glasgow festival. Credit: Tim CraigRoisin Murphy was a delight at the Glasgow festival. Credit: Tim Craig

As Murphy’s main-stage set hit its stride, the arena transformed into an increasingly frenetic disco. Even her performance of her big hit with Moloko in 1999, Sing It Back, shed its trip hop origins and gave its elegant melody an altogether more compelling rhythm.

Murphy is certainly an impressive turn, her injection of avant garde ideas into dance music and her striking sense of theatrics and experiments with fashion – particularly a penchant for striking headwear – brought back memories of Grace Jones, but with the sleek pneumatic reggae of Sly and Robbie replaced by pulverising house and techno.

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Murphy uses the techniques of dance for her own ends, to explore her own life in an autobiographical search for truth. It’s hard not to interpret the lyrics of the self-referential Murphy’s Law as anything other than a declaration of determination in post-pandemic world when she sings: “Ever since we broke up, I’ve been afraid to go out, but I won’t be a prisoner locked up this house.”

Murphy dragged us out of isolation and on to the dancefloor with music every bit as profound, vulnerable and personally revealing as revered poets of heartbreak such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young … but a lot more fun.