Judging by the fact Glasvegas are playing in Rock City’s basement as opposed to the main hall, it would seem the band’s allure is waning. Can the new album translate well on the live stage and claw back the following they deserve?
Venue: Rock City, Basement
Date: October 6, 2013
There are two surprises in store for tonight’s audience. First is the realisation that Glasvegas will be playing in the basement of Rock City, a venue with a quarter of the capacity of its big brother upstairs. This is a shock considering it’s only two years since they played to a sell-out crowd in that same main hall.
The second jaw-dropping moment of the evening is the choice of support band. The Shiverin’ Sheiks are Glaswegian like their headlining touring partners, but they could not be more different to Glasvegas if they were black and Welsh.
The two bands are cut from yarns of wildly different tartan; one woven with inherent pain and misery, the other displaying a kaleidoscopic patchwork blanket of toe-tapping good ol’ fashioned bluesy rock ‘n’ roll. You should be able to work out which band is which by now.
So while The Shiverin’ Sheiks skim the boundaries of doo-wop, bebop and soul, they slowly win over the crowd with their double-bass twanging, hat-flicking fun-time histrionics. They shouldn’t work as support for a band who are so radically disparate, but somehow they provide a neat aperitif for our meaty main course.
Glasvegas, it’s fair to say, have fallen from the lofty pedestal they were placed on by many a publication upon the release of their debut album back in 2008. That album encapsulated the emotions of a man scarred by life, bruised by self-doubt but blessed with a wailing voice which he cannily used to redirect some of the hurt via music. His mourning tones and the ‘Broken Britain’ minutiae struck a chord with the public, and a phenomenon was born.
But while sophomore album ‘Euphoric /// Heartbreak \\\’ contained yet more of those desperately weeping woes, it missed its target. Only slightly, admittedly, but it didn’t resonate in the same way.
So perhaps that explains why tonight’s gig has been down-graded. But, with all that said, there remains fewer bands who can address sadness and emotion in such a beatific way.
Bravely, they open with two new songs, the sparse, brittle ‘Later…When The TV Turns to Static’ and the clattering ‘Youngblood’, from their new record (also entitled ‘Later…When The TV Turns to Static’).
Those two songs alone are bold statements of intent. James Allan is no longer cocksure enough to don shades indoors. Instead he’s assumed the role of a man hoping that this new album will win back the plaudits for its music alone, minus the gimmicks and void of the hyperbole. He knows that ‘Daddy’s Gone’ and ‘Flowers and Football Tops’ are both five years old now, and are no longer to be relied on exclusively.
He seems relaxed and approachable, even – whisper it – content. And while in the past you were hard-pushed to get a stifled murmur to leave his lips, he now seems willing to be open and engaging.
“You’re the best singers on the tour”, he announces in that thick Glaswegian accent after the crowd’s near-perfect rendition of ‘It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry’. But where once this interaction would have been muted, now there appears to be a more audible tone, even if you do have to concentrate fully to decipher that heavy brogue.
New songs continue to pepper the set, including the oddly-named ‘I Feel Wrong (Homosexuality pt 1)’ & the galloping ‘If’, when Allan tips the balance of Talking Heads’ ‘Road to Nowhere’ with the riposte of “I’m on the road to somewhere”. Both are claustrophobic, distorted and uneasy, with that minimalist Mo Tucker-esque drumming still the throbbing heartbeat of each song.
‘Geraldine’ is next. A song for the desperate, tenement-dwelling underachievers of Glasgow’s peripheral wastelands, it remains a superb dissection of a stark way of life, but with the killer one-line chorus of “My name is Geraldine I’m your Social Worker”, its message is defiant.
Elsewhere the sweeping majesty and filmic, Bond theme element that lies within ‘The World Is Yours’ is epic, and the opportunity to swear in unison on ‘Go Square Go’ isn’t missed by the crowd. “Here we, here we, here we fucking go”, goes its terrace-like chant, providing the crowd with a playful interlude.
On the subject of football, the outstanding ‘Flowers and Football Tops’ is sung by James alone, pushing home the emotional heartache that lies within its content with a plaintive, emotional rendition that tugs at the heartstrings.
It sets things up nicely for their anthem, the achingly-bittersweet tale of an absent father, ‘Daddy’s Gone’. Its inherent longing and sadness is palpable, but it’s just so good.
They finish with the future anthem, ‘Lots Sometimes’, from the new album. It builds to a shuddering climax of scuzzy guitars, repetitive drumming and grinding basslines. It’s Glasvegas in a nutshell; it’s why we love them. It’s a song from a set which deserves the same recognition it would’ve received in 2008, or 2011 for that matter.
Their return is a welcome one. They’re still morose, but confidently morose, if such a juxtaposition is possible.