Scottish rock outfit Glasvegas are energetic and raw in tour that will be their second coming
Glasvegas are James Allan (vocals, guitar), Rab Allan (guitar, keys), Paul Donoghue (bass), Jonna Löfgren (drums, keys), and they’re in Leeds on the opening night of their 10th anniversary tour for the release of their self-titled, platinum selling debut album.
It’s a tour that will surely prove to be a second coming from the Glaswegian outfit, and the standards are high. The group have already proven themselves once by touring around Scotland’s club scene to eventually breaking out worldwide, but their grassroots work ethic and energy is what shines through in their performance… And the odd anthem helps too.
Calmly approaching the opening of their set, a live rendition of their debut album, the anticipation in the air is tangible. The sold-out show at the Brudenell begins to fill to the rafters. The instantly recognisable intro to ‘Flowers and Football Tops’ begins to play over the PA; the lights dim. Act one, scene one, here we fucking go.
Jonna’s power on the drums hits you instantly – one of Glasvegas’ main attractions. Standing upright, much like the style introduced by The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Bobbie Gillespie – and of course Caroline McKay, only with a great deal more technical proficiency – Löfgren hits like John Bonham or Dave Grohl, and that’s no overstatement.
The lyrics penned by James for this debut album are nothing short of genius – simple in their melody and full of empathy, loss, anger, and yet optimism for the future. Themes like football, class and alienation will always do well in the north – the harsh industrial backdrop to thriving cultural grassroots is seen in many cities in the UK – and this is evident in how the mainly middle-aged audience turn back to adolescence, repeating the lyrics back to the band in chorus. I expect that every show on this tour will be met with chants and songs sang back at the band. The songs blend seamlessly, as they do in the album, aside from some powerful fills that offer a never-before-heard dynamic to the songs that are already held to heart by so many.
‘Geraldine’ instantly resonates with the crowd, the simplest melody of the entire album and yet the most charming and empathetic. It’s an anthem about compassion through the thankless profession of social work. Class and human empathy rolled into a powerful and classic shoegaze song is exactly what you expect from these now veterans of the UK music scene.
‘It’s my own cheating heart that makes me cry’ is special. The third song of the night may have been released ten years ago but the lyrics are still etched into the souls of every listener present tonight. James takes a step back as the crowd sing the verses back to the group without any cue, I expect this will be a common occurrence on the tour. This is one of the songs where Rab really shines on his guitar, the reverberated, distorted, crystallised guitar tones echo through in the lead melody – which would not sound out of place in a Gaelic folk song, yet is played here with the force of a band raised in industrial Glasgow.
‘Lonesome Swan’ is almost a shoegazer’s ballad. It offers pace to the setlist and a chance for everyone to catch their breath before the band jump right into ‘Go Square Go’, the rough and ready tune that is perfect for jumping around to. On this tour I’m sure there will be some messy scenes during this song. This song is a release; it’s a euphoric experience that allows many mild-mannered indie rockers the chance to vent and jump around in time with the pounding drums and solid bass lines. The themes of class are furthermore covered during ‘Polmont On My Mind’, the pure force of the rhythm section pull you though, while the lead guitar offers a counter melody that soars over you. The execution of these songs are a perfect blend of brute force and beauty. Glasvegas have to be seen to be believed.
‘Daddy’s Gone’ is met with a similar reaction to ‘Geraldine’, one of the biggest and most recognisable songs on the album, an ode to masculinity and regret. This was one of James’ best vocal performances of the night, although his voice in general is absolutely flawless. He sings with equal-parts grit and determination, shouting in pain, but moments later singing softly, helping along the loud-quiet dynamic that has been present throughout the set.
The band hits some technical difficulties setting up the keyboards going into ‘Stabbed’ but by this point, thanks to an energetic and raw performance, the group – if they weren’t before – are well and truly endeared to the crowd. The spoken word song is accompanied by Jonna playing Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’. It’s an entrancing song and a chance for a breather. This song marks the epilogue of the album as the pace fades and we build back up into the crescendo of ‘Ice Cream Van’ which if anything is another vision of an ideal world. The ideology of James or even the entire band seems to finally leak through in a very rudimental sense, as James’ voice cries for ‘freedom of faith’ and to ‘bring back the glory days, active citizenship and pure communities’. Nowhere does this sentiment fit quite so well as modern day Glasgow, and yet the album and the themes of the live performance are so relevant to many urbanised towns and cities in the UK.
For the more hardcore Glasvegas fans, there is a treat of an encore that features songs from EUPHORIC//HEARTBREAK and Later when the TV turns to Static. One thing is for sure, this is the second coming and Glasvegas, under the management of Alan McGee, mean business. For fans of shoegaze, indie, or even early goth. this is a tour that shouldn’t be missed.