Garage, Glasgow, October 21 * * *

In recent years Juliette Lewis has been better known for her music than acting, but as she showed tonight the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Here to promote her first album since parting company with The Licks, Lewis – dressed like Justin Hawkins’ American cousin – introduced most songs with long monologues while her exaggerated showmanship style, unlike her outfit, gradually lost its sparkle during the course of what was an energetic but fairly mundane set.
Throughout it felt like she was playing the part of rock singer, a composite character of Jagger and Joplin. It probably wouldn’t have mattered so much if not for the relatively average nature of much of the material aired. Songs like Purgatory Blues, Fantasy Bar and Junkyard Heart although big on riffs and foundation-shaking bass lacked surprises. The absence of the kind of hook American rawk demands meant the performance and posturing nearly always overshadowed the music.
Religious spiels, pleas to “kiss the person next to you” and solos from her decidedly mediocre band prompted looks of derision in some quarters of the crowd, while her hippie-ish confessions made cringing hard to avoid especially before final offering Suicide. All in all it was a strange display by an artist more likely to be recognised for her onscreen rather than onstage talents.

Delays @ Tut’s 19-10-09

October 26, 2009

King Tut’s, Glasgow, October 19 * *

You could easily picture Southampton four-piece Delays on Britain’s Got Talent. Watching soulless singer/guitarist Greg Gilbert look wistfully into the distance, clutching his mic then his heart while delivering insipid ballad Satellite Lost might have been forgivable but for the combination of two key factors – the coma-inducing nature of the song and Gilbert looking like H from Steps after a couple of nights spent sleeping rough.
Thankfully ballads were few and far between. Instead most of the quartet’s set comprised upbeat, occasionally catchy but ultimately disposable indie-pop tunes with the emphasis very much on pop. Try as they might to be rock, Gilbert’s theatrics coupled with inoffensive songs made taking them seriously almost impossible.
The sold-out crowd might disagree. Desperately prompted to sing, clap along and even start a Mexican wave, they indulged Gilbert and synth/sampler brother Aaron’s attempts to generate some kind of atmosphere on favourites Nearer Than Heaven and Wanderlust.
Tellingly however, the audience seemed far less willing to succumb to the brother’s well-worn antics on new tracks lifted from Star Tiger Star Arial. Still a work-in-progress, the title-track in particular showed little evidence of inspiration while May 45 exhibited the most excruciating falsetto on a night when competition for lowlights was fierce.

Oran Mor, Glasgow, October 17 * * * *

The last time Brendan Benson played Glasgow it was as part of The Raconteurs at the Academy. Tonight the Nashville-based songwriter, along with his three-piece band, appeared to promote his fourth album in the more intimate surrounds of Oran Mor.
His biggest solo gig to date in the city, Benson is obviously keen to build on the success he’s experienced with his other band, but with critics far from bowled over by My Old, Familiar Friend, replicating that success and moving beyond cult status looks unlikely.
With the exception of a handful of fairly routine pop-rock numbers that seemed to drain rather than galvanise momentum, it was by and large a good performance.
A lively start saw old tracks Folk Singer and Good To Me sit favorably alongside new offerings A Whole Lot Better and Eyes On The Horizon while crowd favourites Metarie and Cold Hands (Warm Hearts) easily stood out thanks to the energy of Benson’s delivery and the strength and subtlety of his melodies.
Choosing to add a rockier edge to the eagerly anticipated Tiny Spark rendered arguably his best song somewhat disappointing but thankfully a strong showing during the encore ensured a rapturous ovation on his departure from the stage.

Barrowlands, Glasgow, October 14 * * *

Satisfactory rather than scintillating was the verdict tonight as Echo and the Bunnymen returned to Glasgow to promote latest album The Fountain. There were moments when guitarist Will Sergeant and partner-in-crime singer Ian McCulloch successfully turned back the clock, but overall it was a lethargic performance and one which lacked the kind of spark capable of raising the roof.
The at times subdued crowd response could be attributable to an aging fan-base but it might also have had something to do with McCulloch’s less than rousing delivery. “I always get a bit nervous playing here” he declared before Paint It Black, another song dispensed in workmanlike fashion.
There were no such problems on openers Going Up and the excellent and aptly named Show Of Strength, while Don’t You Know Who I Am was undoubtedly the pick of the new material.
But as the set progressed and energy levels fell away, highlights became a bit thin on the ground. With the exception of Killing Moon, the latter stages felt routine and, lighting aside, far from dazzling. By the end we had witnessed a solid display but one destined to linger in the memory only fleetingly.

Oran Mor, Glasgow, October 7 * * *

It’s the best part of three years since Nerina Pallot last played Glasgow. According to the Jersey-born songwriter she’s spent most of that time “moping around and baking”. Of course she did also record her third album, released on Monday through her Idaho label.
If her prediction is correct The Graduate is set to replicate the success of previous offering Fires by reaching the top 40. However whether it pushes its way to the upper echelons of the charts seems a stretch given the fairly run-of-the-mill nature of much of the new material that made its way into tonight’s set.
It’s probably not the best idea to say you’re going to play a different version of a new song because you find the original boring. Hardly a ringing endorsement, but that’s how Pallot introduced Coming Home, a saccharine ballad which, like most of the new songs aired, lacked a real spark or hook capable making an impact.
On When Did I Become A Bitch she strayed into Lily Allen territory while new single Real Late Starter, although bright and poppy, felt fairly predictable and ultimately not a patch on her biggest hit to date and crowd favourite Everybody’s Gone To War. Well-received it may have been but overall it was a performance where inoffensive songs were met with polite rather than rapturous applause.

Pixies @ SECC 04-10-09

October 15, 2009

SECC, Glasgow, October 4 * * * * *

It’s eighteen years since the Pixies last played Glasgow’s SECC. That night the stage collapsed after a couple of songs and it’s obviously a memory still fresh in Kim Deal’s mind, the bassist instructing us to “tell your folks we came back” during a blistering second encore.
Appearing tonight as part of the quartet’s European tour to celebrate two decades since the release of their seminal Doolittle album, there was no such trauma attached to this show. Instead we were treated to a twenty-nine-song set of the very highest calibre.
After four b-sides, played practically in the dark, we finally got down to the main event or as Deal put it “side one”. It was a typically clinical Pixies performance throughout. Nods to the crowd were fleeting but with songs as potent as Tame, Monkey Gone To Heaven and Gouge Away, there was no need for any accompanying theatrics.
Finishing off their first encore with the hypnotic Into The White was the cue for some in the crowd to make their way to the exits. It proved a premature move as following sustained encouragement from a very vocal crowd, the four reappeared to deliver a mini greatest hits set which on the toss of a coin ended with a glorious rendition of Where Is My Mind.

Stereo, Glasgow, October 2 * * * *

Having recently produced one of the albums of the year – Seven Roads – Jenny Reeve’s Strike The Colours appeared at a sauna-like Stereo tonight to celebrate its release. Sure to be buoyed by the strong turn-out, the willowy singer and her well-honed four-piece band set the tone from the off with sublime opener Cold Hands. Reeve’s hushed, soulful vocal and the song’s understated instrumentation making for a captivating four minutes.
New single Breathing Exercise, with its brisk drums and dark yet uplifting chorus, proved an instant favourite among the crowd while The Things I Can’t Explain’s dreamy meandering verse and contemplative lyrics made it the pick of numerous highlights that peppered an at times enchanting performance.
While most of the crowd listened on appreciatively there were some for whom chatting was more of a priority. It took a light-hearted plea from Reeve before Train Of Thought and a quick round of shushing from those down the front to silence the ignorant element.
Thankfully however by Rivers the crowd was once again focused on the stage. Joined by former Aereogramme singer Craig B, it provided a suitably atmospheric finale to what was a thoroughly compelling display.

Classic Grand, Glasgow, September 29 * * *

Moving to London to pursue a music career is a path chosen by many aspiring musicians. Most fail to realise their dream of a record deal while those who do get signed quickly have to learn to negotiate the clichéd pitfalls that the music business invariably throws up.
For Phil Campbell it was those pitfalls that led to the loss of not one but two deals. Money and chances were squandered, drugs and alcohol fuelled his day-to-day life and eventually contributed to the end of his marriage.
One bright light in that otherwise dark period was the birth of his son, the catalyst for the writing of his new album Daddy’s Table.
If you manage to get past the incredibly creepy title it’s easy to recognise that Campbell isn’t your average singer/songwriter. Tonight he played the album in its entirety and in the process showed he’s still got much to offer thirteen years on from his ill-fated arrival in London.
Wrecking Ball Nights was by far the pick of the nine-song set while For The Boozers and the Losers came a close second thanks to Campbell’s dark soulful vocal but a tendency to over sentimentalise his confessional lyrics marred several songs, My Wee Soul proving the worst offender. Overall however it was a solid display from a songwriter who seems to be back on track.

King Tut’s, Glasgow, September 27 * * *

When London outfit Bombay Bicycle Club first came to public attention after winning Channel 4’s Road To V in 2006, they were still technically speaking a school band. But as you’d expect, it didn’t take long for the quartet to be snapped up by a major.
Released on Island Records a year after finishing their studies and becoming a fulltime band, debut album I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose has drawn mixed reviews since its summer release.
Tonight it was easy to see why as the BBC worked their way through a set that although hardly ground-breaking still managed to entertain thanks to the passion and enthusiasm of the fresh-faced four.
They certainly got off to a good start with Magnet and Lamplight whipping the youthful crowd into a frenzy but for all-out intensity it was Open House which stole the show. Packed with explosive bursts of guitar, held together by a simple but incendiary hook it was by far the indie-rockers’ best moment.
A formulaic approach did blur some songs while frontman Jack Steadman’s fractured vocals often felt like an afterthought but such was the overall energy of the band’s performance it was still a set that made for compelling viewing.