DE ROSA
Captains Rest, Glasgow, March 20 * * *

With the emphasis in music slowly shifting from record to ticket sales, the pressure to put on an unforgettable live display will inevitably grow. But even the best bands can struggle. Take The Shins for example. 2007’s Wincing The Night Away was a contender for album of the year but on stage the five-piece lacked presence and showed that they’re very much a studio band.
Established acts obviously have less to worry about, but for those on the peripheries there’s a real need to make every performance a memorable one. With that in mind you have to worry about De Rosa who, although not short of song-writing talent, never came close to fully engaging the audience tonight.
There were times when the basement venue felt more like a rehearsal room than a gig to mark the release of a new album. The crowd was barely acknowledged during the course of an introverted fifty minutes while after new songs Pest, In Code and Swell you were left wondering how much better it could have been if the five-piece had found that elusive spark.

THE MACCABEES
Oran Mor, Glasgow, March 19 * * * *

Opting to kick a tour off in Glasgow is a common tactic these days. Glasgow crowds are enthusiastic but more importantly forgiving. Therefore it stands to reason it’s an especially good location when it comes to debuting new material. For The Maccabees, tonight was the chance to air tracks from forthcoming second album Wall of Arms.
The five-piece was never going to struggle to convince those here supposedly with parents in tow. No doubt fan forums across the land were awash with teen-speak superlatives the following day. And you can understand why. This was a punchy performance, full of urgency and at times real potency.
It was the songs from Wall of Arms that ensured losing momentum was never an issue. From opener No Kind Words through William Powers and Can You Give It? they didn’t let up, dispensing three-minute salvos energised by on-edge guitar and feet-shifting drums.
Eventually the crowd got what they really wanted, debut single X-Ray and First Love had the diehards singing and dancing while a rousing pre-encore finale of Precious Time meant encouragement was vocal and sustained until the five reappeared on stage.

NOISETTES
ABC2, Glasgow, March 18 * * *

After failing to make much of an impact with their debut What’s The Time Mr Wolf, tonight’s headliners parted company with their label and for a time seemed destined to be stuck in limbo. But two years on and with a new deal in place, Noisettes are back with their second album Wild Young Hearts.
This time the London trio look more likely to dent the mainstream thanks to their next single’s prominent role in Mazda’s’ current ad campaign, but as Babylon Zoo showed, one hit single courtesy of relentless airings on TV isn’t always enough when it comes to shifting albums and selling out gigs.
So how would the rest of the new material stack up? Well as it turned out not that well. Even Don’t Upset The Rhythm, although catchy, didn’t quite convince – the snippet used in commercials aside it felt decidedly lacklustre.
On the plus side the three-piece, and in particular poster-girl Shingai Shoniwa, knows all about showmanship and tonight was no different, the former burlesque artist delivered her most effective vocal on Atticus from the midst of the crowd.
Tellingly it was older punk pop track Scratch Your Name that felt freshest, the song easily eclipsing the newer, jazz-infused numbers which although not without their charms did little to suggest Noisettes have made a meaningful return.

THE JOHN KNOX SEX CLUB
13th Note, Glasgow, March 17 * * *

With only a handful of gigs under their belt The John Knox Sex Club is a band still finding its feet. Tonight they appeared at the 13th Note to record their debut EP and while it maybe wasn’t the most memorable or exciting gig, the five-piece did enough to suggest there’s more to this band than just an irreverent ear-catching moniker.
Prowling through the crowd like some kind of deranged preacher laying hands on the faithful, singer Sean Cumming threw himself into proceedings but his presence and frontman posturing did little to mask what was a less than satisfying vocal display.
Maybe not surprisingly then the band was at its best during the more frenetic instrumental passages. Rory Anderson’s short bursts of frantically shredded guitar added a real urgency to songs like William Run and Witness, the latter’s controlled but chaotic finale showing that JKSC know how to unleash a full-out sonic assault.
On the basis of tonight’s performance it’s difficult to say what lies ahead for the Glasgow-based outfit. Throughout they looked as unsure as those watching on but with time and more live outings they could develop into something special.

LITTLE COMETS
King Tut’s, Glasgow, March 16 * * *

If you missed tonight’s performance by Newcastle’s Little Comets then have no fear – it was captured for posterity by a dozen or so cameras for future online airing, but just why you’d want to relive a set that came and went without much in the way of highlights is hard to say.
Certainly the two hundred or so punters who ventured out to Tut’s hardly seemed blown away by the quartet’s brand of upbeat guitar pop. Applause was polite rather than vociferous while dancing was by-and-large restricted to a particularly animated sound engineer.
The band were clearly enjoying themselves too, but with a shortage of hooks, sharing the four-piece’s enthusiasm was difficult, especially during the latter stages when a distinctly Caribbean influence took over – songs like Fiance and Friday Don’t Need It wouldn’t have been out of place on the Weekend At Bernie’s soundtrack.
As it turned out the fresh-faced four peaked on second track Lost Time. With its catchier chorus and singer Rob Coles’ punchier vocal it easily stood out, but given that what followed proved inoffensive, it provided small consolation for a pretty average gig.

Doves @ ABC1 15-03-09

March 20, 2009

DOVES
ABC1, Glasgow, March 15 * * *

Leaving a gap of more than two years between albums can be risky. Fickle fans move on while new trends and new bands can make the musical landscape an entirely different proposition. But in the light of Elbow’s phoenix-like revival it appears there’s always hope.
For Doves it’s been a troubled four-year hiatus and one ultimately forced upon them by circumstances. Bereavement, label woes and a stubborn perfectionist streak all combined to delay fourth album Kingdom of Rust which four years on from its predecessor, finally gets a release next month.
One thing the trio needn’t have worried about was losing their fan-base. Tonight easily sold out and judging, by the resounding and very vocal response their arrival on stage provoked, they’ll have no problem packing out the Barrowlands next month.
However, whether the new material will do anything more than placate an already loyal following remains to be seen as although performed with passion and power much of it felt one-dimensional.
They were at their best when they deviated from the overly anthemic numbers. The Greatest Denier and new single Kingdom of Rust proved less linear and more adventurous, both easily standing out. But as you’d expect it was the hits that proved most memorable with Pounding undoubtedly the most potent and euphoric of the bunch.

HOWLING BELLS
Classic Grand, Glasgow, March 11 * *

Back in 2006 Howling Bells delivered one of the albums of the year. It won over critics and, after extensive touring, a loyal following. But if the mixed reviews for recently-released Radio Wars are anything to go on, they may well have succumbed to second album syndrome. Tonight was a chance for the Sydney quartet to redress the balance, a chance to make new songs work live, and win over the unconvinced. Sadly they failed on all fronts.
It was hard not to notice the lack of atmosphere in the venue as the band trooped on stage. The crowd seemed subdued, as did the band after opening numbers Treasure Hunt and It Ain’t You failed to provoke much of a response, both songs building to nothing and receiving only patchy applause.
Darker, less focused and lacking the melodic charm that made their debut a critical success, there were few positives to be taken from the new material aired. Most of it sank without trace in a sea of atmospheric guitar and weak vocals, while even past favourites Setting Sun and particularly Low Happening lacked the expected punch.

THE XCERTS
King Tut’s, Glasgow, March 8 * * *

With debut album In The Cold Wind We Smile released at the end of the month and a host of high-profile support slots under their belt, The Xcerts are no doubt hoping this is the year they successfully strike out on their own.
The trio are certainly poised to make their assault. Press has been good while if tonight’s exuberant over-14s crowd is anything to go by, the word is obviously spreading through the junior ranks of the Biffy brigade.
Singing along for much of the set, the audience’s reaction seemed to take the three-piece slightly by surprise but, armed with a handful of anthemic emo-tinged numbers, it didn’t knock them off course.
Well-honed throughout, the trio has the kind of polished radio-friendly rock sound that may eventually see them play arenas to hordes of angst-fuelled pop-rock fans. But as Just Go Home and Do You Feel Safe showed, with that sound comes a certain derivative formulaic-ness, which at times tonight rendered their music predictable.
It’s still early days for The Xcerts but given tonight’s crowd-pleasing performance and the reaction that they evoked they’ll soon be moving up through the rock scene ranks.

PEARL AND THE PUPPETS
King Tut’s, Glasgow, March 6 * * *

Much has been made of the fact Pearl – AKA Katie Sutherland – and her Puppets have signed to the same management company as Elton John, James Blunt and Lily Allen. Indeed come the summer she’ll be supporting Reg at the SECC, but whether the Glaswegian will make any dent on a mainstream already cluttered with female singer/songwriters is difficult to say especially after such a low-key, low-impact showing tonight.
Wrapped in what appeared to be a net curtain, the singer – in true pop-star-in-waiting style – arrived on stage only after her three-piece backing band had taken up their positions. Thankfully however that was the only real moment of showmanship.
Not that the music alone proved enough of an attraction to keep the near sell-out crowd focused, as a predictable battle between the chatterers and shushers spread through the venue. On her solo rendition of Kings of Leon’s Use Somebody they were at their most vocal, but even the chorus of shushes couldn’t mask what was an insipid cover, and one which at times made Sutherland’s vocal sound like Kermit the Frog impersonating Sean Connery.
With its more direct melody, Because I Do was easily Sutherland’s strongest offering, the song’s upbeat jaunty rhythm falling just the right side of twee, but overall it wasn’t enough to compensate for what was a fairly average singer/songwriter set.

FRANZ FERDINAND
Barrowlands, Glasgow, March 4 * * *

There was one genuine spine-tingling moment at the Barrowlands tonight – an inevitable wave of anticipation washed over the crowd as Franz Ferdinand launched into Take Me Out’s glorious intro. It was hard to resist. Unfortunately after the build-up’s initial euphoria the song, like much of tonight’s performance, felt routine and struggled to deliver on excitement.
There was no shortage of the usual Franz bravado and chat was kept to a minimum but still momentum was hard to maintain. Instead it was to be a set of intermittent highs – one that, although embraced by the faithful, never quite captured the imagination.
At times it seemed like the four were desperate just to get this, the first show of their two-night stint at the famous ballroom, out of the way as fast as possible. Come On Home and No You Girls burst out of the blocks at frenetic pace but left little mark behind while Do You Want To’s only saving grace was the dizzying lights that accompanied it.
However with recent single Ulysses, Franz has added another high-impact crowd-pleaser to its arsenal, and tonight it clearly hit the spot, the song provoking the most fervent response of those tracks lifted from their latest album.