Live Review: Glasvegas, Notting Hill Arts Club. Wednesday 25 February

Photo courtesy of Flickr and J Kent

Photo courtesy of Flickr and J Kent

The crowd of 150 fans squeezed into the dark, dingy Notting Hill Arts Club waiting for Glasvegas seem better suited to the unruly terraces of a football stadium than the basement of a small, alternative music club. A chant started by a pack of frenzied and shirtless men, their bodies crushed against the tiny stage, starts to rumble in the air: “HERE WE, HERE WE, HERE WE FUCKING GO! HERE WE, HERE WE, HERE WE FUCKING GO!”

It’s not a sign of impatience or hostility; it’s merely the chorus from the band’s latest single ‘Go, Square, Go’, and the audience’s way of showcasing their devotion to the Scottish indie-gloom rockers who have made the leap from critically revered cult-darlings to mainstream mainstays since the release of their eponymous debut album six months ago. Their recent headline slot on the NME Awards Tour may have ensured that venues such as this—where the paint peels from the walls and the beer bottles don’t have any labels—are consigned to the past, but tonight’s show is a return-to-roots celebration of the recent meteoric success which they have been striving for since founding in 2003.

If tonight’s performance was supposed to be packed with carnival spirit, though, no-one told Glasvegas. They stride noiselessly onto the stage at 12:30am, all four members clad in black from head-to-toe, and without so much as acknowledging the crowd launch into ‘Geraldine’, their heartfelt ode to a fictional social worker complete with thundering drums and a wall of dark, shimmering guitars. For the next 45 minutes the band will silently jostle for space, with crowd interaction limited to lead singer James Allan’s brisk enquiry of “Are ye alright?” in his rough Scottish brogue, but the passion and intensity are tangible. Allan half croons, half drawls his way through the sharp social observations of ‘Flowers and Football Tops’ and the bruised melancholia of ‘It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry’ as his band mates back him with a poignant slab of dark, brooding rock that energises the audience throughout the set—ex-Libertine Carl Barat can even be spotted crowd-surfing above the swarm of heaving bodies by the end of the night.

By the time Glasvegas strike up their last song, the rueful ‘Daddy’s Gone’, their unique appeal is fully evident. Not many bands could turn a song into domestic turmoil into a sing-a-long, but as Allan kneels on the stage, eyes closed, and conducts the crowd in their roar of “He’s gone, he’s hone, he’s gone”, a powerful blend of pathos and euphoria fill the air. Their departure is as understated as their entrance—there’s no parting words or encore—but rather than being curmudgeonly, it feels like a fitting ending. Glasvegas are surely destined for larger venues and grander occasions; recapturing the magic of tonight’s fiercely triumphant atmosphere will be a much tougher challenge.

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~ by benjaminhewitt on March 4, 2009.

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