Live Review

Glasvegas, NME Awards Tour

Do the Glaswegian four-piece have the potential to exude universal appeal?

According to the Gospel of Alan McGee, Glasvegas “could be the biggest band in the world” when it comes to live performance. But do the Glaswegian four-piece have the potential to exude universal appeal, or is this just another case since ‘Creation’ of “Indie mogul crying ‘wolf’”? DIY watch Glasvegas headline the NME Awards Tour 2009.

As the follow up act to shoegazing funksters Friendly Fires, Glasvegas’s set was always going to see a shift in demographic down in the stalls. Fires’ frontman Ed Macfarlane clucking about like Mick Jagger with extra ants in his pants could not be a more glaring contrast to Glasvegas crooner James Allan’s bleak expression, 50s quiff, and black shades that whiff of Roy Orbison. His is a ‘retro’ rebel look - a fitting aesthetic for the band’s self-proclaimed ‘Wall of Sound’, which they tonight set against a backdrop of a black and white picture-show.

By opening with the soaring ‘social-worker’ anthem, ‘Geraldine’, before a greyscale image of a cherub and celestial-like beacons of bright flashing light, it becomes immediately apparent that Glasvegas are not here to treat us to just any old rock ‘n’ roll show. Instead, they strive to inspire a more divine experience - the best example being the sensitively spun melancholia of ‘It’s Your Own Cheating Heart That Makes You Cry’, which sees the beer swigging congregation embrace their pals, raise their pints and chime in with their best Scottish accents. Glasvegas must be the only band since Oasis to ask, “What’s The Story (Morning Glory)?” and reap a similarly rapturous response.

The show itself proves seamless; with the band using their guitars to create a Spector-style soundscape in between the end of one song and the start of another. And though this slows, if not drags, the pace down at points, it is nonetheless a refreshing approach that sets them aside from some of their counterparts, who instead dabble with banter to maintain a mood. The musical bridge also facilitates a spine-tingling renaissance in the second half of the set. Momentum builds beautifully for the band to blast out a stirring rendition of ‘Flowers and Football Tops’, upon which Allan’s shudders of “Babeh Ba-a a-beh” sound like Scott Walker strangling The Proclaimers. The crowd’s boisterous seizure of the terrace chant “Here we fucking gooooooo!” from ‘Go Square Go’, even after Glasvegas leave the stage, further indicates that the faithful were not yet close to full-time. Had there been no encore, truncheons and shields would have been out in full force.

Returning for a soothing and stripped-down ‘S.A.D. Light’, the band’s inevitable set-closer ‘Daddy’s Gone’ remains as raw and poignant as ever, with Allan giving fans centre stage for a final tug of the heartfelt chorus. Conjuring up the kind of sentimental dejection that would strangely please Morrissey, the band didn’t actually need their frenetic lightshow to set off the waterworks of grown men. As they bid farewell, Allan, shaking hands and blowing kisses to the vocal and adoring front-row audience, looks genuinely overwhelmed. The feeling is mutual.

Alan McGee may have said a mouthful when he said Glasvegas could be the best live band in the world, but after tonight’s set, a lot of Leeds Academy would agree that the man has a point. Whether the band can outlive the hype and outgrow those who blindly follow is, as they say, in the lap of the Scots.

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