Sunday, 28 November 2010

Underworld, Glasgow Barrowlands, 26th November 210

So it is Sunday afternoon, two days after a blinding gig by Underworld at the world famous Glasgow Barrowlands. As I was a little delicate yesterday, my memory of the actual setlist or order of songs is a little hazy, but here goes.

I met one of my very best mates, Reddy, in McChuills in High Street, a real music pub and the bar staff were playing Bowie and Motown to kick start the weekend. We’ve had many a good night in McChuills pre/post Barrowlands or a night out. As it was we only stayed for a couple of pints so we could head round to the Barrowlands to see the support act Silver Columns.

It was pretty quiet when we got in just after 8pm and Silver Columns had just started. They were stuck behind a decorated table/desk so I’m not sure if they were actually playing any instruments, but they were singing and camping it up big style.

‘Cavalier’ burst into life, all twitchy and glitch synths with a call and response vocal. Unfortunately Silver Columns didn’t seem to have access to the full Barrowlands sound system, a real shame for them and for the crowd which was filling up fast.

‘Columns’ was beautiful, gentle vocals, all melodic and wistful. People were starting to dance, particularly the two skinheads in front of me who were far from discreet when licking their wraps of speed!
‘Brow Beaten’ brought things to a close, Donna Summer-esque disco via Fife, with echoes of the Beta Band. It was a short and sweet set; one that I am sure generated some new fans that will be checking out their album.

I’d made the mistake of keeping my parka on for Silver Columns and headed down to the cloakroom to stick it in ahead of Underworld. I should have stuck it in at the start of the night. The queue was massive and it took me a full 25-minutes to get it in.

I got back up the stairs just in time for the start of Underworld. The Barras was far from sold out, a far cry from the last time I saw Underworld in the same venue in 2002 when they took the roof off the place with Born Slippy getting a rapturous reception. At least there was space to dance, and dance we did!

Underworld’s latest album has been getting fantastic reviews and it was clear from the start that they would be mixing plenty of new songs with some of their classics. Karl Hyde was a lithe livewire from the offset with the euphoric ‘Heaven, heaven, can you feel it, can you feel it?’ hook from ‘Always Loved A Film’ generating a surge down to the front.

The duo of Karl Hyde and Rick Smith have now been recording music together for 30-years, although it was only (arguably) after the addition of Darren Emerson to the band and the release of dubnobasswithmyheadman in 1994 that they began to get success. An outstanding album, it was included in many end of year polls, despite the onset of Britpop.

Darren Emerson has now left the band, however their creativity shows no signs of diminishing and with trance guru Paul Van Dyke helping with the production on the latest album, they appear to be gathering new fans rather than losing them. It was certainly a mixed crowd, teens to people in their forties and probably even their fifties.

‘Scribble’ is another new track and the melodic synths caused many down the front to sing along with the riff.
Older fans needn’t worry, Underworld were determined to take the crowd on a trip through their back catalogue. If Brian Wilson and Phil Spector are masters of taking someone on a trip with a 3-minute pop song, then Underworld are masters at the 9-minute epic, with many songs segueing from one to the other.

‘Two Months Off’ brought a harder edge as the and delved back in time, Hyde was bounding about the stage, dancing behind a screen, generally vibing off the crowd and getting them up for it in return. Synths came bursting into life alongside the squelchy beats and kept pushing on as the dancing down the front got fiercer.

The lights works incredibly well with the music throughout the show, there was some old skool acid house smoke machines going on, at times the lights went off completely so all you could see was the lights of Underworlds bank of equipment and the silhouette of Hyde moving in time to the beats. His stream of consciousness lyrics making him dance musics version of Bob Dylan – or maybe not!

Time seemed to fly by and before I knew it, it was the moment that I was waiting for as the beautiful bubbles of synths came through the speakers signalling the start of one of electronic musics all-time classic; ‘Rez’.
The crowd knew it, the band knew it, it was party time and time to dance. The speed of the synths built up, the high-hats were kicking in, the beats came out of nowhere and we were off on a musical journey. Hands were in the air, people were jumping, everyone was dancing and grinning like loonies, drug induced or natural.

Just when you thought it was coming to an end, Underworld pulled their old trick of segueing into another one of their classics; ‘Cowgirl’. The crowd were singing along with the refrains ‘an eraser of love’ and ‘I’m invisible’ before the synths took over, lifting the song and the crowd even higher.

The reception afterwards was rapturous. As if to highlight how much they believe in their new material, Hyde strapped on a guitar and they launched into the New Order-esque ‘Diamond Jigsaw’.

‘Moaner’ saw things go really old skool with masses of dry smoke punped into the crowd and lights flashing on and off all over the place. The crowd were going mad for it.

With mass dancing going on to one of the heavier songs in the Underworld cannon, we were suddenly brought to a standstill with our arms in the air and more smiles as wide as the Clyde on our faces with the opening synths of ‘Born Slippy (Nuxx)’. Hyde’s lyrics kicked in ‘...she smiled at you boy’, the synths kept coming, Hyde started again, things were about to kick off big style.

The big beats came in and hands were down and everyone was dancing like their lives depended on it. ‘Lager, lager, lager, lager, shouing, mega mega white thing, mega mega white thing.’

There can’t be many ways to top that and Underworld didn’t try!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Vigo Thieves at the Apple Store, Glasgow, 25th November 2010

Shock horror – two blogs in a week. And it will be three after Underworld tonight.

This one is pretty short and sweet.

Last night I went to the Apple Store in Buchanan Street to catch the Vigo Thieves playing a free gig. The band who have recorded some imaginative promo videos throughout 2010 got the gig as they said they recorded their video for ‘Steal Your Heart’ on an i-phone 4 and edited it on a Mac. You can watch the video HERE

I’ve been following the Vigo Thieves since the start of the year when my friend Helen suggested a trip to Wishaw to see them at the Soul Suite in the Commercial Hotel. I hadn’t been there since around 1997 when I went to my mates 21st and was surprised to see it cleaned up and excited to feel a real buzz about the place in anticipation of the Vigo Thieves first ever ‘Shook To The Bones’ club night on their home turf. The band were (admittedly) a little worse for wear by the time they took to the stage, but the aforementioned ‘Steal Your Heart’ stood out with it’s biting guitar riff and refrains. And as someone who was a teenage Bon Jovi fan, I still like to hear the odd ‘baby’ in a song.

Since then they have released a couple of singles; ‘Steal Your Heart’ and ‘Blood Red’, played loads of gigs, been hard at work writing and recording, they’ve been played on Soccer AM and they’ve also played at Ibrox and received the endorsement of a certain Mr McCoist. So it is fair to say that they have had a pretty productive 2010.

On to the Apple Store. Due to their drummer being out of action for the time being after an operation on his arm, the band were armed with a huge Mac screen for a backing track. They opened with new song ‘Echoes’ before a few technical issues with the Mac caused a short delay and I heard someone mumble ‘should have got a Dell’. Undeterred the band launched into another new song, the rather epic ‘Sound of Summer’ which warmed up the ever growing crowd on a cold winters night. The piercing, circular guitar riff led into rumbling bass and the opening lyrics ‘it was the sound of the summer, playing on the radio, you could feel the heat, the drums were beating...’

The song goes up a gear into the chorus; ‘Come on baby, don’t break my heart, i’m all dressed up, and out of luck, the drums are beating, my sweat is cold, remember that summer, it was raining gold’.

It was a short set last night, but that only served the band well, highlighting that they set out to write songs about love and hope, with sing-a-long choruses and infectious guitar lines.

Previous single ‘Steal Your Heart’ took things up a notch, more swirling guitar riffs with a nod to the likes of Simple Minds and U2 and uplifting lyrics ‘stay young in your heart, stay young in your mind’.

The band may have played another song or two, but after a few post gig beers my memory fails me, I do know they ended with ‘Blood Red’ and its hooks were being sung by me and my mates as we headed off into the night.

I look forward to seeing the band in 2011 when their drummer returns.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Aerials Up, the Borderline, London

I’ve been meaning to catch Aerials Up for a while but every time they have been playing in Glasgow I seem to have had something on. The band (formerly known as The Ad’s) seem to have been working hard following their name change, taking on new members (only the singer and bass player were in The Ad’s and they play a completely new set of songs), developing a new sound, racking up some impressive support slots – the Royal Albert Hall with Paulo Nutini! – and generally creating a bit of a buzz. And lets face it Aerials Up is a much better name!

Last weekend they won the ‘Emerging Talent Award’ at the Tartan Clef Dinner (the Scottish Brits?). It was unfortunate that they didn’t get a chance to play, particularly when Joe Elliott from Def Leppard got to play, albeit fronting the Sensational Alex Harvie band.

Anyway, I am digressing. On Tuesday this week I was down in London with work and I was eager to get out and about at night, rather than go to the pub to watch Chelsea or Arsenal in action. Browsing through the Time Out website I noticed that Beach House were playing, but it was sold out, but so were Aerials Up. So I headed along.

The band were headlining a night at the Borderline, slap band in central London. I got there just after the first support act had finished, in time to see Jonathan Jeremiah. I’d never heard of the guy but it turns out he had played on Jools Holland the week before and he is signed to Island Records.
He was joined on stage by 6 friends, with three violinists, a trombone player, beatbox/percussion and a cello. He launched into a song called ‘Happiness’ and his talent was clear to see, at ease on stage, joking with his band (in particular the blonde violinist and I couldn’t blame him for that) and genuinely making it look easy.

One song in particular recalled Nick Drake, while the majority had a kind of soulful, loose Cat Stevens vibe going on. Quite MOR at times, more soulful at others, but definitely talented.

Upon hearing him announce ‘this is the song I played on Jools Holland last week’ I did wonder why on earth he wasn’t headlining, but the buzz around Aerials Up appears to have carried to London and there must have been a crowd of around 60 to see them.

Aerials Up are also a 7-piece and I was impressed about how quickly they got ready to play! Their violin player was perched precariously on the edge of the stage as they launched into the upbeat opener ‘Stay Awake’. It was an excellent choice of song to get going, ears immediately pricked up as the driving beat, chorus and urgency of the chorus and hook got peoples attention.

It was a very fluid set from the band (the first time I think I have ever used that description). The songs all fitted well together and the on stage chemistry between Kemy (lead vocals and guitar) and Debbie (vocals, glockenspiel and occasional guitar) was excellent.

The guitarist looked like he was having a great time, as well as looking about 18 or 19, the drummer was lost in the beat, the bass kept it all together, the cello and violin were a little quite in the mix at times (more suited to some songs than others) and they all got involved with the soaring choruses and hooks.
The band introduced a new song that I didn’t quite catch the title of, it possibly had the word ‘sand’ in it. Anyway, it was excellent and it was swiftly followed by an ‘acapella’ song (with only the tiniest touch of guitar) that showcased the vocal melodies.

A lot of the reviews I have read about Aerials Up have included references to Arcade Fire (possibly justifired on a couple of songs) and somewhat lazily to the Polyphonic Spree (probably largely due to their soaring choruses). I’ve not read anything about Vampire Weekend yet, but the immediacy and (seemingly) simplicity of Aerials Up songs and melodies, not to mention the singers voice, caused me to think of them on more than one occasion. The playful and original guitar riffs also made me think that they must have Vampire Weekend’s albums in their collection.

‘Superglue’ was introduced as the next single and they ended the night with a song that ‘will be the next single after Superglue’.

Aerials Up certainly have a lot going for them, their ability to create playful melodies, inject a change of pace/beat into a song at the right time and the entwining vocals of Kemy and Debbie certainly make them stand out.

To summarise I would definitely go and see Aerials Up again, their set seemed like an album to me, as I mentioned it was very fluid, they have some catchy singles, some more expressive tracks and are not afraid to experiment with their sound or instruments – while at the same time remaining very focused on the sound they want to achieve.

All in all it was a great wee night and my first trip to the Borderline, an excellent wee venue.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Good news comes in three's

Logging on to the Popcop website I discovered that Admiral Fallow have signed a worldwide publishing deal with Netwerk One Music who will re-release the bands excellent 'Boots Met My Face' album in 2011 and give it the plugging, press and exposure it richly deserves.

Regular readers of my blog (should I have such a thing) will know that a few posts ago I had mentioned my surprise that no-one had picked up on their top class album to distribute it on a wider scale. I've now got my wish and I'm sure the band have got theirs!

Well done to the band, well deserved and it will be interesting to see what 2011 now has in store for them.

(Drawing by the excellent Jenny Soep)

This news was hot on the heels that the Popcop exclusively broke the news that Frightened Rabbit have signed a major label deal with Atlantic Records, following the release of three albums on Fat Cat. This hard working band have really kicked on in terms of their songwriting and ability since they started, building a fanbase through solid gigging and regular releases.

They have achieved a lot on a small label, not necessarily in terms of sales, but in terms of exposure and building that fanbase that has resulted in a major picking them up.

Frightened Rabbit play two nights at the Barrowlands in December with support from Admiral Fallow. I get the feeling that there will be a real sense of celebration in the air that night!

Moving away from bands, there was the news that Radio 1 is having a bit of a revamp and this has resulted in the appointment of Ally McCrae for their Introducing in Scotland show, which will move to a Sunday night.

McCrae takes over from Vic Galloway and while it is sad to see Vic go (he will still be with BBC Radio Scotland), I'm sure I am not the only music fan in Scotland to be excited by this appointment. As with Admiral Fallow, I mention Ally on a previous blog due to his Detour exploits. So to have someone who is out in the frontline getting his hands dirty by putting on nights and events, regularly attending gigs ad supporting independent and unsigned music in Scotland can only be beneficial in the long run.

I look forward to hearing his first shows in January 2011 to see what he has in store for the show.

So there you have it, a quick blog with 3 reasons to be cheerful for Scottish music.