Monday, 9 November 2009

755 GLASVEGAS, Mad Skull, Gloucester Guildhall Arts Centre, Sunday 21 September 2008

Well, this lot of Glaswegian reprobates have shook me up into a right old state recently. An intriguing write-up in the Guardian Guide (with a recommendation from none other than head Bunnyman Ian McCulloch), promising MySpace soundbites, tix quickly booked for a rapidly-selling out tour, then the CD and a revelation. Condensing 50 years of rock'n'roll cool into a single band - the sneer and swagger of Bunnymen meets Clash, the sonic template of Joy Division meets Jesus And Mary Chain, the song structures of Buddy Holly and the Shangri-Las, together with gritty lyrical content holding up a mirror to our fucked-up society a la Strummer or Costello. To say hopes were high - perhaps unreasonably so - would be a total understatement!

So Rachel and I headed off at 7.15 and parked up after a swift drive at 8. I'm fully strapped up after twisting my knee and dislodging some cartilage the previous weekend, so we took a slow limp into the venue and sat in the rapidly filling and very convivial bar. A real cross-section of clientele for this one - young indie-kids rubbing shoulders with retro teddy girls and old 40-something Mary Chain/MBV musos; it appears Glasvegas appeal to a broad church...

Had to kick around and wait until 9 for support Mad Skull to take the stage. A single hooded character stood behind a keyboard and played an old folk song extolling Glasgow's virtues - and that was as good as it got! Quite the worst support I'd seen for some time, this lot looked like they were about to mug you, and peddled a horrendous beatbox driven drivel, with all the charisma of a charging elephant and less subtlety, like Black Grape gone wrong. Rach and I retreated to the corridor to attempt to escape!

So, from the ridiculous to the sublime. Rach and I took a spot stage left in the expectant sell-out crowd for Glasvegas' arrival at 10. Taking to the stage in a swathe of billowing dry ice and shimmering guitar noise, like something out of the 80s, singer James Allan moaned the opening notes to "Flowers And Football Tops" like a mournful hound, before the song burst into strident life with a wall of white light, backlighting the band's black-clad silhouettes.

Rarely has a band arrived with their first album so fully-formed, so free of the pitfalls normally associated with a young group. Sure, their lineage is pretty easy to spot - 50's doo-wop song structures, guitar fuzz wall of noise, aligned to the kind of effortless cool exuded by Ian McCulloch and, frankly, few others - but the mix is undeniably their own. "Flowers And Football Tops", a heart-tugging paean to a murdered child, almost brought a tear to my eye, particularly the closing refrain of "You Are My Sunshine" - and this was just the opener!

"Lonesome Swan" followed, chiming and haunting, recalling none other than The Sheila Divine, before the JAMC "Darklands"-era stomp of "Geraldine", an ode to a social worker (!) underlying their skill for interweaving today's social issues and topics into their beautiful jagged white noise. My favourite, "Cheating Heart" was also an early highlight, the lyric delivered with suitable stream of consciousness paranoia by the Ray-Ban clad Allan. No let up at all, though, as they delivered as near-perfect a set as possible right now. The terrace chant "Go Square Go", about a playground fight, saw the enthusiastic crowd chanting "Here We Fucking Go", and the brilliant closer "Daddy's Gone" cemented its place at the top of 2008's singles for me, spine-chilling, haunting and deliciously mournful, the crowd again singing along to the chorus during the post-middle 8 break, no doubt establishing a ritual as the band, stunned, looked on.

45 minutes set, done, A quick in and out leaving us all begging for more, and knowing that we've witnessed the start of something very special indeed. In James Allan, finally this generation of so far disappointing UK rock bands has produced its one true star, a Joe Strummer for the new millennium. I'm glad we got to see Glasvegas in a small venue, because they're hot hot hot and they're going to be huge huge huge! And this time you KNOW I'm right.

No comments:

Post a Comment