Glasvegas at Whelans on the 9th of October, 2013
They say great art comes from great tragedy, and you won’t need to listen to too many heavy doses of Glasvegas‘ odes to a fucked up childhood to pick out that particular inspiration. The Allan brother’s tales of toxins, abandonment and the love to be found in the social services – all delivered in Glaswegian baritone brogue – are almost toxically depressing live, even the spattering of laddish chants and poetic spoken interludes struggling to lift a fog of downbeat emotion.
It’s not for everyone, but the intensity of a post-punk meets lad rocks combo is what makes Glasvegas work. The wall-of-sound live set up is more assertive than their recorded output, driven through the skull during peaky choruses by the belting drum track from an exceptional Jonna Lofgren, and lifted to roaring crescendos on the back of an atmospheric set construction.
Tonight is not without false starts, however. A waft of electrical burning first suggests issues before the band even strut on stage, and by the intro to S.A.D Light, James can’t get through the first verse without stalling. The sound problems persist for ten minutes, during which a wonderfully toned-down version of Flowers and Football Tops fills the empty spaces, but as good as the aside is, that droning momentum Glasvegas tend to build up has been temporarily derailed.
The Glaswegians aren’t an easy band to deny, though. A set with a heavy atmospheric emphasis reaches leaping, pulsing peaks on some of the lesser known mid-set tracks, such as The World Is Yours’ and ‘All I Want Is My Baby, before Geraldine – a huge fan favourite – plays the role of evening’s anthem and lifts Whelan’s vibe another couple of notches. There’s not quite the sheer euphoria of the Academy show back in 2011, but the Scots are a different band now, no longer NME’s love puppets, and arguably more mature in their ability to twist their set into a full on emotional storytelling.
That particular angle’s emphasized in the encore. The tongue in cheek dedication of I’d Rather Be Dead Than be With You to a couple in the front row is a touch harsh but fits right in with that desolate emotional soundscape they’ve made their own. Daddy’s Gone sits like a tumour of an explanation on top of the set, the tale behind the mood, dark and unforgettable, but its closer Lots Sometimes which offers the cleverest move. Whilst the vibe is the same as the rest of the set, the tone is subtly different: still looking back, but this time reminiscing over good times. It’s stuff like this that edges a band with football terrace influences at their fore as much as emotion into something that little bit more, something that our pretentions might allow to be called ‘art’.
And great art doesn’t always come from tragedy. Glasvegas’ work is ultimately cathartic, and eventually feels that way. Sometimes great art comes from hope, too.
Glasvegas Photo Gallery
Photos: Shaun Neary