THE MANIC STREET PREACHERS
Barrowlands, Glasgow, May 25

A week on from the release of latest album Journal For Plague Lovers, The Manic Street Preachers kicked off their UK tour in Glasgow tonight in considerable style.
Playing the album in its entirety could have lessened the atmosphere but with tracks like Peeled Apples and Jackie Collins Existential Question Time showing a return to their big riffing Everything Must Go ways, the trio stamped their authority on proceedings early on.
Using lyrics penned by former guitarist Richey Edwards before his disappearance fourteen-years ago added a real sense of poignancy to most of tonight’s set but no more so than on William’s Final Words. Sung by bassist Nicky Wire with trembling tones it proved a moving four minutes.
After a quick break spirits were lifted in euphoric style with a mini Manics greatest hits set that had the crowd bouncing in unison particularly on the uplifting A Design For Life and Everything Must Go.

STAG & DAGGER
Various venues, Glasgow, May 23 * * * *

Appearing in Glasgow for the first time, Stag & Dagger is the latest urban festival to hit the city but it didn’t get off to the best of starts. Local up-and-comers Over The Wall were due to kick proceedings off at 6pm but a change in the schedule meant those of us who arrived at the Captains Rest on time were too late to see the much fancied lo-fi electro folksters.
Still the next band up, fellow Glaswegians The French Wives, more than made up for the disappointment with a lively set of jittery indie pop – Romeo and Gemevieve the highpoint of a quick-fire eight-song set.
Blue Roses AKA Laura Groves followed, the Bradford singer/songwriter showing her knack for weaving seamless melodies throughout her low-key set, but especially on Cursed.
There’s no doubting the highest profile line-up was at the ABC but in the end it wasn’t headliners the Cold War Kids that starred at the former cinema, instead it was The Twilight Sad.
It wasn’t quite a vintage performance by Glasgow’s finest, the usual intensity seemed somewhat lacking, but it still drew the biggest crowd of the day. More importantly however it gave the five-piece the chance to air new tracks Reflection Of The Television and That Birthday Present, both of which proved well worth the wait.
Sadly the same couldn’t be said of CWK whose rather limp performance played out to a patchy crowd, the lure of the increasingly-popular Phantom Band making many head for a packed Art School.

THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART
Nice n Sleazys, Glasgow, May 20 * * * *

Expectations were high for The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart’s sell-out show at Sleazys tonight. The latest bunch of New Yorkers to excite critics and fans alike, the quartet proved an irresistible indie-pop force as they worked their way through tracks from their acclaimed eponymous debut album.
Their cause may have been hampered by the fact singer/guitarist Kip Berman’s vocals were rendered inaudible to such an extent that songs like opener Doing All The Things, Stay Alive and Everything With You could have been mistaken for instrumentals, but even so it didn’t stop them winning over the packed crowd.
A knack for writing intelligent uplifting pop songs was always going to stand them in good stead, regardless of sound issues, and that was certainly the case throughout tonight’s performance.
Recently-released single Young Adult Fiction, Come Saturday and new track 103, delivered with convincing passion and honesty, didn’t disappoint on any level, each one ensuring heads bobbed and toes tapped.
With many of their influences hailing from Glasgow, Berman had described his band’s visit as a “pop pilgrimage” so it was fitting that the distinctly Vaselines-esque encore of Kurt Cobain’s Cardigan rounded off an impressive display in some style.

THE BREEDERS
King Tut’s, Glasgow, May 19 * * *

Fresh from their role as curators of All Tomorrow’s Parties, The Breeders appeared tonight to play the first show of a two-date stint at Tut’s. Both nights sold out easily with fans of the quartet eager to catch the band in more intimate surrounds. Not surprisingly then it was a performance observed in revered silence and one which the faithful happily lapped up.
For the rest of us however their 90-minute, 21-song set did drag by at times, especially as it neared its conclusion, but even so there was still much to enjoy.
No Aloha got proceedings off to a good start but like most of the set, former Pixies’ bassist Kim Deal struggled to be heard, her vocal getting lost in the mix. However on tracks like the hypnotic N Of J and crowd favourite New Year, the band – rounded out to a five-piece with the addition of Cheryl Lyndsey on guitar and keys – soldiered on undeterred.
As it transpired the LA-based outfit peaked halfway through on the excellent Cannonball, the song still potent sixteen years on. Rough around the edges they may have been but this only added to their charm and although the latter stages didn’t prove as engaging they managed to shine on Tipp City and Safari.

MITCHELL MUSEUM
Captains Rest, Glasgow, May 14 * * *

Slowly making a name for themselves thanks to nationwide interest in their debut single Warning Bells, Glasgow’s Mitchell Museum may still be, to all intents and purposes, without a label but it looks like the quartet won’t remain unsigned for too long. Positive press and a fair amount of airplay should make a deal forthcoming and on tonight’s display they certainly deserve a crack at the big time.
The re-release of Warning Bells was the pretext for this the first night of their debut UK tour, but even though they gave a good account of themselves you couldn’t help but think how much better it could have been if not for poor sound.
The mix throughout was patchy to say the least but it still couldn’t lessen the immediacy or infectious spirit of opener We Won Second Prize, the song epitomising the band’s energetic brand of indie-pop.
No. 5 and Tiger Heartbeat did much to ensure the four-piece’s enthusiasm spread through the crowd, the latter in particular proving a firm favourite while the inappropriately-named Room For Improvement, with its Grandaddy vibe, again showed the band’s knack for weaving a melody.
Above all it was an honest performance and one which on another day could have sounded a whole lot better but still there was much to enjoy tonight.

DIE! DIE! DIE!
Captains Rest, Glasgow, May 13 * * * *

“We’ve had a couple of bad days” declared singer/guitarist Andrew Wilson after a particularly manic rendition of Britomart Sunset. No doubt funnelling the frustrations that arise when the police wrongly impound your equipment, and leave you stranded a £100 taxi ride from your next gig, Die! Die Die! – thankfully reunited with their gear – were on fine form from start to finish tonight.
For once, the limitations of the Captains Rest actually played a positive part in proceedings. The lack of a stage, and for that matter a crowd, allowed Wilson and bassist Lachlan Oliver the chance to get up close and personal with the twenty or so curious onlookers.
It never felt staged as they roamed the floor and with Wilson the intensity of his delivery never waned – the frontman yelling his lyrics and frantically shredding away at his guitar as if his life depended on it.
The New Zealand trio rattled through their set at a blistering pace, hardly pausing for breath let alone applause. On Blue Skies they were at the peak of their noise-pop powers, perfectly marrying a more melodic feel while still retaining a visceral edge. By the end and like all good performances it was one which left you wanting more.

THE TEMPER TRAP
King Tut’s, Glasgow, May 12 * * *

It was a good turnout tonight for The Temper Trap’s first Scottish date. The hype has been building for the Australian quintet with their name appearing on numerous “ones-to-watch” lists. However whether they’re worthy of the increasing amount of press, on the basis of tonight’s performance, is hard to say as although it was a competent display their set lacked the kind of knockout songs capable of separating a band from the indie-pop pack.
Theirs is an eclectic sound. On set highlight Down River there was more than a whiff of Arcade Fire, the song’s more direct approach getting the five-piece back on track after fairly average opener Rest.
Much has been made of singer Dougy Mandagi’s voice but as the set progressed his falsetto, although soulful and delivered with passion, did start to grate. It worked best on U2-inspired Sweet Disposition but by final number and recent single Science Of Fear it felt over-played.
Vocals aside, Resurrection – thanks in no small part to Toby Dundas’s creative percussion – showed plenty of promise but like a good deal of what went before it threatened much but just came up short at the crucial moment.

THE BALKY MULE
Captains Rest, Glasgow, May 10 * * * *

Returning to the UK three years on since he upped sticks and headed down under, Sam Jones – better known as The Balky Mule – has been making and recording music for close to a decade now. In that time the former Bristol resident had amassed a wealth of material, the best of which found its way on his debut album proper The Length Of The Rail.
Released on FatCat Records, it’s an album full of lo-fi charm, strange instrumentation and subtle melodies but how the songs would translate live was the question.
As it turned out Jones and his two-piece band, although not always on the same page, put in an endearingly shambolic display which overall served his music well. It’s a shame then that it was such a meagre crowd that turned up to the Captains Rest.
After a couple of quirky and at times impenetrable opening tracks Jones showed his more melodic side with Jisaboke, a joyfully meandering song crammed with quirky twists and turns and a typically fragile vocal.
Unconventional throughout, at times it was the honesty of his delivery rather than the music that stood out – jazz-infused instrumental Ant Learning one such example. Overall however it was penultimate number Wireless that provoked the biggest response thanks to its more immediate melody and less idiosyncratic style.

MIKE BONES
Nice n Sleazys, Glasgow, May 7 * * *

New York singer/songwriter Mike Strallow, AKA Mike Bones, made his first appearance on British soil back in February on BBC2’s Culture Show. A jaunt around the UK was set to follow but as the snow fell and the country ground to a halt so did the tour. A chance to spread the word was lost as was the impetus a TV appearance brings.
Since then second album – A Fool For Everyone – has hit the shelves, but judging by reviews and tonight’s sparse and largely disinterested crowd, he’s got a lot of work to do if he’s going to stand out among the multitude of troubadours currently plying their trade.
From the start Bones had his work cut out holding the crowd’s attention. Annoyingly high levels of background noise – generated by those oblivious punters more intent on chatting loudly, and in the case of one particularly irksome female, shrieking – seldom dipped. It meant time and time again those of us trying to listen were thwarted in our efforts to focus on the performance.
But with the arrival of Bone’s three-piece backing band things did pick up. One Moments Peace’s bluesy groove coupled with Bone’s Dylan-esque drawl certainly made its mark while Give Up On Guitars provided the New Yorker with his best moment.
With the crowd thinning and Bones’ offer to “play a couple more if you want” ignored it was a somewhat flat finale to a gig largely devoid of that vital spark.

GRAHAM COXON
King Tut’s, Glasgow, May 9 * * *

As a gig-going experience tonight’s set was a distinctly unsatisfying affair. The writing was literally on the walls before Coxon and his two-piece band had even taken to the stage with posters scattered throughout the venue asking the crowd to observe an appreciative silence for the Blur guitarist’s largely acoustic performance.
Not that the crowd paid much attention to the management’s pleas, random heckles and song requests rang out from start to finish but for the most part they fell on deaf ears as Coxon diligently worked his way through new album The Spinning Top.
The combination of a packed Tut’s and Coxon’s decision to remain seated for much of his ninety-minute set made actually watching proceedings nigh on impossible for the majority of punters.
Despite this there were still moments when the prolific songwriter’s material shone – In The Morning, If You Want Me and Dead Bees all managed to stand alone even without any real visual aspect. But with Coxon’s chat limited to the occasional unintelligible mumble and with atmosphere in short supply, overall it was a disappointing and underwhelming display.