Wednesday, 23 March 2011

810 GLASVEGAS, Bristol Thekla, Tuesday 22 March 2011

Glasvegas… on a boat! This is going to be fun…

Since arriving at the arse end of 2008, fully formed, as a complete distillation of everything cool throughout rock’n’roll history, Glasvegas have been off preparing for the next step towards their inevitable global domination, returning with an imminent new CD, “Euphoric///Heartbreak\\\” and a mini-tour in advance of an impending larger venue jaunt. So we jumped on the chance of seeing one of the most promising new bands of the last few years at this intimate, wonderfully run-down and ramshackle venue. Glasvegas… on a boat!

A few questions surrounded this one, however; given that they were so fully-formed, their lineage (McCulloch ray-ban cool, Strummer “voice of the people” stance, VU/ Mary Chain/ wall of noise guitar dynamics, Buddy Holly song structures) obvious yet not overwhelming, each piece complimenting each other, where would they go from here? A couple of disturbing press shots of vocalist James Allen wearing white (!) also raised concerns. Nevertheless, we headed down, parking by the river and wrestling with a reluctant pay machine before hitting the venue just after 8. A pleasant surprise was that we’d missed the support (Gillian somebody) and Glasvegas were on at 8.30! This was followed by our descending into the bowels of the ship and finding an excellent viewing nice spot stage left, a couple of rows back; “sold out” at the Thekla doesn’t mean rammed to the rafters…

The lights dimmed at the witching hour, and Glasvegas took the stage to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” (the musical backdrop to their “Stabbed” track), the black-clad band kicking off shimmering new number “The World Is Yours”. Then vocalist James Allen, startling in white, swaggered onstage and burst into the impassioned lead vocal, his heavily accented vocals nevertheless powerful and strident, and all the more so for being sung with the mic at arms length (as was the case throughout most of the set). However he wasn’t the only immediate focal point; new drummer, Swede Jonna Lofgren, standing upright behind her kit as did predecessor Caroline McKay, looked like Rachel’s friend’s 15 year old step-daughter, but fairly pounded the drums like a steam-hammer. “She’s good, isn’t she?” remarked Allen after the opener. Damn right she is; I’ve rarely heard anyone hit so hard, and I was concerned at one point she might sink the ship with the sheer power of her drumming!

The early stages took an “old number, new number” sequence, revealing the new songs have retained the Glasvegas sonic template, but are, if anything, infused with extra dynamism and soaring emotiveness – this is going to be one corking album… A mid set cover of The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” revealed a musical debt, and was followed by a stark, stripped-back reading of “Moon River”. “Euphoria”, the slow-burn to crescendo manifesto for their new material, followed, James Allen again delivering an emotive vocal as if his life depended on it. “Does anyone here want to dance?”, Allen then asked before a rampaging “Go Square Go” saw a frantic moshpit break out, and the vocalist abandon the stage and join in! Rubbing shoulders in the mosh with this generation’s first true rock star is something to remember…

First encore, the gut-wrenchingly raw and heart-breaking “Flowers And Football Tops” was given another dimension with a powerfully desolate, voice/ keyboard only rendition. And I’ll honestly be hard pushed to see anything else “live” this year quite as magnificent as final number “Daddy’s Gone”, the powerful pent-up emotion of this number being released in an awe-inspiring communal sing-along, before Allen, chatty, voluble and appreciative of the crowd’s enthusiasm throughout, led the band through one final crashing crescendo to bring a marvellous set to a close. Wow.

I grabbed a set-list as well, thanks to my lovely wife, to cap a superb night which dispelled any concerns about Glasvegas’ return. If anything, they took a step up tonight; they’re the best British band around right now, no messing. And we got to see them… on a boat!

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