The Veronicas @ ABC2 23-09-09

September 28, 2009

THE VERONICAS
ABC2, Glasgow, September 23 * *

In their native Australia The Veronicas – twin sisters Jessica and Lisa Origliasso – are considered a big deal. Multi-platinum album sales and numerous hit singles have helped The Veronicas brand, they already have a clothing line, spread to the US where the duo is slowly making inroads thanks to some high-profile support slots.
Hoping to crack the UK with the release of second album Hook Me Up, the sisters and their well-drilled backing band rolled into town tonight to play for a sold-out ABC2 crowd, and while they certainly thrilled the screaming predominately female masses, overall it was hard not to feel somewhat underwhelmed by a set that failed to impress.
Soulless and contrived to the point of parody, the tattooed twosome’s performance – punctuated by inane banter – may have ticked most of the right boxes when it comes to pop-rock gigs but without any memorable hooks and with no real surprises up their sleeves it was an entirely predictable display.
They did come close to a highlight on Mother Mother but with the vocals came another steady flow of laughable lyrics and an unconvincing delivery style best described as emotionally polished.

Hockey @ King tut’s 20-09-09

September 28, 2009

HOCKEY
King Tut’s, Glasgow, September 20 * * *

There were three memorable things about tonight’s gig by Portland quartet Hockey. Two were songs, more of which later, and one was drummer Anthony Stassi’s fine John Bonham-esque moustache.
In keeping with his 70s look were his disco drums which for the most part energised and drove the band on, but too often it was a build-up to an unfulfilled climax, Learn To Lose and Preacher two examples.
Attempting to mesh too many influences led to a confused sound on lowlight 3AM Spanish while Curse This City felt distinctly cut-and-paste. A bit of variation in the shape of Four Holy Photos did help break up the relentless disco beat, the song’s Dylan-isms possibly a sign of better things to come.
Two tracks that could propel them up the charts are debut offering Too Fake, sure to be re-released, and current single Song Away. Lifted from their Mind Chaos album, the latter in particular with its infectious sing-along chorus had the packed crowd dancing on the spot.
As for the rest, it was a hit or miss affair but at least Put The Game Down’s all-out rock finale allowed the four-piece to go out on a high.

Mando Diao @ Oran Mor 13-09-09

September 20, 2009

MANDO DIAO
Oran Mor, Glasgow, September 13 * * *

Household names in their native Sweden, huge in Germany, Mando Diao will be attempting to replicate that success in Britain with their soon-to-be-released fifth album Give Me Fire. However cracking the UK will be an altogether tougher task than mainland Europe where chart success and credibility don’t often go hand in hand.
On tonight’s showing it’s hard to imagine the five-piece’s appeal spreading through these isles. It’s not that they were particularly bad it’s just that they weren’t particularly good either.
Following a simple formula, the band gave it their all throughout but the linear nature of songs like Sheepdog, Mean Street and If I Don’t Live Today I Might Be Here Tomorrow meant surprises were in short supply.
At times there was a cartoon quality to their delivery and music – High Heels wouldn’t be out-of-place in an episode of Scooby Doo – but by and large their infectious enthusiasm carried them through.
One musical bright spot came in the shape of God Knows but given it was the final track, before a distinctly underwhelming encore, it was a long time to wait. Still for the most part it was an entertaining showing from the Swedes, albeit not always for the right reasons.

MUMFORD & SONS
King Tut’s, Glasgow, September 12 * * *

Should London four-piece Mumford & Sons make any sort of mainstream impact there’s a fair chance they’ll be dubbed the British Fleet Foxes, or maybe the Fleet Street Foxes. Both weave 4-part harmonies and draw on their folk bluegrass roots for inspiration, but tellingly when it comes to the quality of song writing the gulf between the two is glaring.
Although not without their charms, the Londoners put in a fairly routine display and one which felt formulaic at times. Not that the majority of the sold-out crowd would agree. Judging by their whoops of delight and the rapturous applause that greeted songs like debut album title-track Sigh No More, Awake My Soul and Dust Bowl, they needed little convincing.
The quartet certainly couldn’t have been happier with the response for this the first night of their UK tour. White Blank Page was the pick of the set – the rather earnest nature of its predecessors replaced with a real passion thanks to frontman Marcus Mumford’s more aggressive vocal – while the sombre I Gave You All followed in sedate but beguiling fashion. Sadly however from then on in it was hard to distinguish between songs that overall struggled to engage or leave any discernable mark.

Jet @ ABC1 11-09-09

September 20, 2009

JET
ABC1, Glasgow, September 11 *

Television adverts have a lot to answer for. Using catchy snippets of songs to sell some demographically-targeted must-have gadget can propel a previously unheard of, and more often than not, undeserving band into the mainstream. For Australian rock n’ rollers Jet it was the use of Are You Going To Be My Girl in Vodafone’s worldwide campaign that helped the quartet shift in excess of 3 million copies of their 2003 debut.
The follow-up didn’t fare so well and judging by reviews for latest offering Shaka Rock the writing’s on the wall for Jet, however for the band to decipher it, it’ll have to be written in the font preferred by AC/DC.
There was certainly nothing offered up tonight that suggests a Jet revival anytime soon. The days of playing venues the size of the ABC’s thousand plus room look numbered, especially if they continue to knock out repetitive uninspired songs like they did tonight.
Mindless, almost entirely devoid of an original idea and reliant on stop-start riffage it was a set where the lighting often proved more entertaining than the music and the thought of heading home more attractive than an encore.

OKKERVIL RIVER
Oran Mor, Glasgow, September 9 * * * *

Numbers may have suffered due to events at Hampden and news of the score may have dampened some spirits but for most in attendance, Okkervil River’s return to Oran Mor was the only thing on their mind.
They certainly gave singer Will Sheff their full attention, hanging on his every word, clapping whenever prompted and taking on vocal duties when the gangly songwriter took a step back from his teetering mic-stand.
Sheff’s theatrical delivery style did at times feel slightly OTT but his obvious passion for playing live ultimately shone through especially on tracks lifted from arguably the band’s best album to date, The Stage Names.
A Hand To Take Hold Of The Scene made for a jaunty opener while A Girl In Port, with its evocative lyrics and hazy, folksy ebb and flow, had the enthusiastic audience swaying gently throughout.
A particularly rousing rendition of John Allyn Smith Sails and the chaotic bursts of sound on Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe ensured the pace picked up as the set neared its conclusion.
After thanking us for “skipping the football” Sheff lurched into final track Unless It Kicks, the song’s uplifting melody ensuring the six-piece went out on a considerable high.

THE LOW ANTHEM
Oran Mor, Glasgow, September 7 * * * *

Although it was a relatively good turnout for The Low Anthem tonight, you suspect it would have been an altogether busier affair if not for gigs around the city by fellow alt-country acts Willard Grant Conspiracy and Neko Case.
For the Rhode Island trio’s first appearance in Scotland the setting couldn’t have been better, aesthetically at least. The former church’s auditorium lent a real sense of atmosphere to proceedings, and that was before they’d even taken to the stage.
It wasn’t long before three mournful yet dreamy harmonies were soaring towards the suitably celestial ceiling murals. To The Ghosts Who Write History and the sublime Charlie Darwin both proved irresistible slices of Americana.
The latter in particular with its heavenly melody and understated instrumentation was simply a joy as was Ohio, another stand-out track from recently re-released second LP Oh My God, Charlie Darwin.
Like on the album, tonight there were some songs that, although not without the occasional flourish, came and went in fairly mundane fashion. Intermittently ropey sound – always an issue in unusual spaces – played its part too, but the honesty of their performance and music was such that they more than deserved the sustained applause each number provoked.

PASTELS TENNISCOATS
Stereo, Glasgow, September 2 * * *

Glasgow stalwarts The Pastels may have been keeping a low profile in recent years but thanks to their love of Japanese pop and the creation of their own record label, the band – reduced to core members Stephen McRobbie and Katrina Mitchell – is back with a new album written and recorded with Tokyo duo Tenniscoats.
Tonight marked the collaboration’s first live appearance so understandably it maybe wasn’t the most polished of performances. Not that it bothered the crowd too much, the majority of whom were only too happy to let songs like set highlight Song For A Friend and Boats take them on what McRobbie described as a “smooth journey”.
The warmth and honesty of their music contributed to the easy flowing nature of much of the material aired tonight but too often the gentle meandering feel of songs like Charlie’s Theme, Thru’ Your Heart and album title track Two Sunsets came and went without making too much of an impression. Add to the equation stifling heat and at times it was hard to connect with what was actually happening on stage.
In the end it was a set that proved hard to muster enthusiasm for and one that, save for the odd track, failed to capture the imagination.

JEFFREY LEWIS AND THE JUNKYARD
Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, August 31 * * *

The last day of the Edge Festival brought a sold out crowd to the Cabaret Voltaire for Jeffrey Lewis and his intermittent backing band the Junkyard. Part of New York’s so-called ‘anti-folk” scene, the diminutive singer/songwriter showcased his quirky blend of lo-fi indie-folk during the course of an entertaining hour in the basement venue.
There was an endearingly shambolic air to his performance tonight. No doubt heightened by Lewis’ decision to forgo a soundcheck, it served to embellish rather than impede songs already skewed by a somewhat ragged edge.
As well as being a musician, Lewis is also an established cartoonist. On The Story Of The Mayflower and A Low Budget Detective Flick he married the two mediums, singing his quirky comedic lyrics while flipping through pages of illustrations. Both certainly provoked chuckles from the crowd but second time around it did feel slightly earnest. As did the gentler more folk-inflected tracks that interspersed tonight’s set.
However where Lewis did excel was on the more upbeat full band numbers. Garage rocker Slogans, Posters and Good Old Pig Gone To Avalon bustled with chaotic energy and urgency but overall it was the whimsical Mosquito Mass Murderer that truly stood out. Fusing rap and beatnik-isms it proved a delightfully quirky three minutes.