Wednesday 11 June 2008

Glasvegas, The Royal

We're at Derby's new venue tonight, The Royal formerly the Royal Hotel although it closed as a hotel in 1950. Both tonight's bands comment on the posh-ness of the surroundings when they come on stage, which is quite late. The support act play at 9.15, the main band at 10.15.

First up are a band called Madskull. The name doesn't sound promising and neither does the lack of a drumkit. Then when a badly dressed group of scallies, looking like Oasis after they've eaten all the pies, walk on stage to the sound of 'My Boy Lollipop' possibly my worst fears are realised or possibly not. Turns out they're actually quite a nice bunch of lads albeit with impenetrable Scots accents who make quite a nice sound. I think they're funny, as in entertaining and comic sort of way. Apart from that second track which is called 'Bouncy' or something like that and is all my musical nightmares rolled into one. They only play four tracks, saying that's all they've got, as they've only been together a matter of weeks but they're not too bad at all.

For a band who only assembled recently, they have a lot of equipment and they take almost as long shifting it as they did playing. Then eventually dry ice and red lighting floods the stage as four be-quiffed figures dressed in black take the stage. Glasvegas certainly look the part, like a 1960's version of the Jesus And Mary Chain with Joe Strummer on lead guitar and singing in Glaswegian. L's analogy was a cross between the Skids and the Cold War Kids with a dash of Rab C Nesbitt thrown in. Which is priceless. As you may have guessed the band are, as the name suggests, from Glasgow or more correctly Dalmarnock. Mind you, it's still a shocker of a name, even if it is how many Scots jokingly refer to Glasgow.

After their impressive entrance, singer James Allan kicks off the evening with 'Flowers And Football Tops', a song big on emotion and seemingly about roadside memorials. Along with his cousin Rab on guitar and Paul Donoghue on bass, the three of them lay down a gorgeous wall of guitar noise. This is partly where the comparisons to fellow Scots Jesus And Mary Chain come from, I also wonder if they've listened to My Bloody Valentine. The guitar sound is backed by the simple drumming of Caroline McKay on a cut-down drum kit, who is slightly hidden in the shadows at the back of the stage.

The place isn't full despite the hype and their recent appearance on 'Jools' so we can get up close and impersonal with them. Together since early 2006 with the much downloaded 'Home Tapes' demos and three limited edition singles behind them, it's taken a while for them to get noticed but finally they have been.

So have they been hyped for a good reason. Well yes. Tonight, their songs resonate off the walls of the impressive Royal without being as loud as I'd expected. Previous singles like 'Its My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry' are accompanied by fists in the air and football ground style singing from the crowd down the front but don't hold that against them. Each familiar song is sung back with increasing vigour as the night goes on, even the 'woo woo' Ronettes' bits.

There is no written set list; it's seemingly not needed for what appears to be a well-honed set. The well known downloads all take on another dimension live and are interspersed with a few new songs, such as 'Lonesome Swan' and 'Polmont On My Mind' which promise great things from their debut album when it is released in August.

'Geraldine' sounds wonderfully powerful and totally ace live. It is already L's single of the year and it's not even out until 23rd June. In fact she says the band are the best thing I've played her for a while. She's even bought the t-shirt.

There is hardly any letup, as the band rumble through their brief but breathless 45 minute set, more than justifying the frenzy about them.

'Go Square Go' storms the stage and the crowd but then finally we get a break and a slowie; a new song called 'Ice Cream Van' featuring just James Allan's distinctive Glaswegian brogue and Rab on keyboard, although it sounds a bit like the funeral march. L tells me how moving it was the way he wrung his hands as he sung it. She says she was sure he was rummaging for a hankie in his pocket afterwards so he could have a little sob. I'm not convinced, I thought the lyrics were about sectarianism and he was wringing his hands as if he had them around someone’s throat. Funny how we see things differently.

They finish with 'Daddy's Gone', which is greeted with a big cheer. A track that was voted the number 2 single of 2007 by NME readers. Most of the crowd know it and carry on singing when James Allan opts not to.

No sooner has he finished singing a final chorus of 'forget your dad, he's gone' and they're gone themselves. Almost as soon as the band are off the stage, the house lights and the music come on. Game over. Which is a shame. Not even chance to shout for an encore.

Despite the shortness of the set, these guys are clearly a class act with some great songs. Probably too short, it would have been good to hear them play 'The Prettiest Girl On Saltcoats Beach', but I suppose it was only £7. Hopefully longer sets will appear when they tour to promote the album.

So a great gig, despite them not having the cheeriest of songs; their repertoire consists of death, racism, absent fathers, social workers, infidelity... he's clearly had a rough upbringing. What a good advert for Glasgow. I've not really been there; don't think I'll bother.

Tuesday 3 June 2008

Guillemots, Rock City

Rock City isn't full and the balcony is closed for added intimacy. We head up the staircase and get a good spot, perched at the top, like, well like a guillemot or should I say guiLLeMoT, as they prefer to write it.

First though, London's Royworld and their mainstream pop rock, promoting their debut album 'Man In The Machine'. It's a terrible name and none of the band are even called Roy, in fact what's worse is the lead singer is called Rod, so why not Rodworld? Can't be any worse, or can it? Or Robworld after the guitarist? Tim and Jerry-world, the other two members, conjures up cat and mouse games...

They play some pretty standard stuff that seemed ok but nothing stood out or grabbed my attention. After a few tracks, my mind and eyes soon started to wander elsewhere.

As the roadies set up for the Guillemots, I conclude that the sound check could take a while, as a huge array of equipment is wheeled out on to the stage including more effects pedals than I've ever seen before. They also bring out a stuffed lion, which looks like the King John character from Disney's Robin Hood.

The lights go down and the baggy suited Fyfe Antony Dangerfield Hutchins takes to the stage clutching a hand held keyboard that I'm not sure he's actually playing. He sings the first verse of 'Made-up Lovesong #43' solo, sounding a little like Stevie Wonder. Fyfe it appears is a man of many voices and has a truly great vocal range. He sings about something he got 'off the paper round', hopefully not from round our way. Then he takes a seat at his keyboards and coloured lights go on everywhere, including a tube of red lights running all around the stage and the other band members join in for the rest of the song.

There are several birds on stage, there's one perched on Fyfe's keyboards, a guillemot I assume, and then there's Aristazabal Hawkes looking good in a near backless black dress with a double bass between her legs.

They drift into 'Clarion' without a pause with Arista now banging on a set of drums. Guitarist MC Lord Magrão is rocking out, as he does all night, even when the tempo of the song doesn't warrant it. Fyfe stays at his keyboards, side on to the audience, which isn't very rock n roll and annoys the hell out of me. Face your audience! He doesn't talk a lot but oddly asks what people's favourite paint was. Some bright spark replies with a yell of 'Green'.

The title track to their Mercury Music Prize nominated debut album 'Through The Windowpane' follows as we get a sequence of slowish songs to open including their rather twee new single 'Falling out of Reach'.

'Falling out of Reach' would sit well on their first album but some of the other stuff on the new album 'Red' would not. Some of the tracks are very different for sure and all hell breaks lose when the band employ a major chance of pace and play 'Last Kiss'.

Arista timidly shuffles forward to take main vocal duties, a more reluctant vocalist I don't think I've ever seen. She mumbles something, I think she says the songs about marriage. Oh dear. Major assertiveness lessons required and as for her dancing, well...

Putting all that and her rather quiet vocals aside, its still an outstanding moment. Also for Arista's dress, for which L has now placed an order.

Then they go from being completely manic back to soft and gentle although Fyfe briefly ditches his keyboards in favour of a guitar, for 'Standing On The Last Star' for which he sounds far too like Mika for my liking. He encourages everyone to clap and sing along to the ending.

The band are continually swapping instruments, often even mid-song. Fyfe's on harmonica for the intro to 'Words' which rather unfairly reminds me of that French-Tunisian crooner FR David and his awful schmaltz of the same name which sold by the skip-full in 1982. Thankfully it's not the same track but shockingly similar in sentiment.

Arista shows what a diverse girl she is by picking up bass guitar for the brooding 'Don't Look Down', which is my favourite track from 'Red'. It's a captivating song that picks up speed as it goes along until it gets insanely fast towards the end. My highlight of the night.

'Annie, Let's Not Wait', another of my favourites, has possibly too much drumbeat on it but its still good. Then Fyfe dons some very silly sunglasses as their punchy recent single 'Get Over It' picks up the pace again, dramatically so. When I first heard this being played on the radio, I couldn't believe it was the Guillemots gone all pop.

He tells us it's about being a bitter old man. Bitter it seems at ending up with the wrong girl and still longing for his unrequited love but hey, at least he's getting over it.

Fyfe is left alone to play a solo 'We're Here'. It's a quiet moment but initially the crowd are too busy chattering, still abuzz from a cracking 'Get Over It' which just needed to be commented on. Probably not a good time to play a slowie.

The rest of the band return with Arista now at the keyboards for the raucous Scissor Sisters sound of 'Kriss Kross' which closes the set.

The band leave the stage but the audience had barely finished applauding when they return. Oddly drummer Greig Stewart is now stripped to the waist with a face drawn on his torso, dancing madly, and waving a bell above his head while Fyfe plays the drums. What was that all about then? Quite surreal. Someone shouts out their perverse appreciation for Greig, Fyfe tells them to 'get over it'.

Normality is restored for 'Trains to Brazil'. Their debut record, that made a name for the band. A sad but clever song commenting on the threat of terrorism in the world these days. They re-named the song in tribute to Jean Charles de Menezes, who was shot by the police on the London Underground.

Fyfe introduces all the band members, including the lion. We even got a few words from the lion but he mumbled too much into his microphone for us to be able to make them out.

They end with a hyperactive 'Sao Paulo' with lots of percussion, with all the roadies joining in and Fyfe banging a dustbin lid.

A good gig but too many slow moments for me but then they're that sort of band. L compares them a little to Elbow, although not as witty or crowd friendly. Equally, if not more, nod-off-able at times. The new, dare I say 'disco', stuff doesn't really quite fit in their repertoire but gives an interesting contrast and possibly widens their appeal. I think perhaps, Fyfe is going through a mid-life crisis. You're supposed to start doing more slow songs when you get older but he's going the other way.

(Photos pinched off the Guillemots forum. Sorry)

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