MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS
Oran Mor, Glasgow, February 19 * *

Tonight marked Marina Diamandis’ first Scottish show since coming second in the BBC’s Sound of 2010 list. In the past such an accolade would have brought certain expectations but given the calibre of previous nominees those expectations have taken a nose-dive in recent years.
So maybe not surprisingly the Welsh singer/songwriter’s set tonight was something of a disappointment.
For forty-five minutes Diamandis, backed by a four-piece band, flounced about the stage delivering her brand of inoffensive pop and while the mainly female crowd whooped with delight, presumably at her delivery, it was difficult to see how it could have been prompted by the singer’s featureless hook free material.
If truth be told the most memorable aspect of tonight’s display was Diamandis’ outfit which screamed Cbeebies reject. In comparison songs like Girls, Oh No and Shampain proved instantly forgettable while the closest she came to a musical highlight was Numb. A Regina Spektor-esque ballad it showed a certain quirky flair but it was to be a fleeting moment of promise in an otherwise tedious performance.

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Midlake @ ABC1 15-02-10

February 19, 2010

MIDLAKE
ABC1, Glasgow, February 15 * * * *

No matter how good they may sound in a studio, not all bands thrive on stage. Some seem lost, insular and awkward – The Shins spring instantly to mind. On past visits to Glasgow that was the certainly the case when it came to Midlake. Great songs, forgettable performance.
Tonight however the Texans went some way to repairing their live image with an altogether more memorable display. That’s not to say it was a stunning set, it wasn’t, but thanks to some extended jams and the obvious sincerity of guitarist/singer Eric Pulido, it was a far more pleasing affair than their last ABC1 appearance..
Musically a certain repetition did pervade some of the tracks lifted from latest album The Courage Of Others but there was still much to enjoy with Rulers, Ruling All Things, Bring Down and Core Of Nature proving worthy additions to the Midlake catalogue while Roscoe and Head Home inevitably provoked the most vocal reactions from the crowd.

VAMPIRE WEEKEND
Barrowlands, Glasgow, February 13 * * *

It’s easy to understand the appeal of Vampire Weekend, they’re not your average band and as they demonstrated tonight their songs can get a crowd dancing. Such was the infectious nature of the quartet’s African rhythms that at times the queue for one bar resembled a conga line, albeit a very slow one – turns out Gloria Estefan was right.
But as well as getting toes tapping, a good portion of this nineteen-song set resulted in head scratching. Uneasy tempo changes, a general disjointedness and too many ideas made some songs an endurance test – Diplomat’s Son the worst and by far longest offender.
With enough fan favourites littering an energetic performance, there’s no denying the quartet put in a strong showing and generated plenty of atmosphere. Songs like Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, A-Punk, One (Blake’s Got A New Face) and Oxford Comma galvanised the masses while encore offerings Mansard Roof and Walcott ensured it was a buoyant crowd that spilled out of the Barrowlands.

THE SUNSHINE UNDERGROUND
ABC1, Glasgow, February 3 * *

After positive reviews for their debut, Leeds based quartet The Sunshine Underground find themselves facing that tricky second-album. So far favourable column inches for Nobody’s Coming To Save You have been as thin on the ground as tonight’s crowd.
Struggling to half-fill the venue and with atmosphere in short supply, it became clear very early on that those who chose to stay home and avoid the snow had made the right decision as what followed was an uninspired set of disco-infused indie-pop more noteworthy for the volume it was played at than the actual content.
However spotting the very obvious influences on particular songs did at least help pass the time – The Music on Coming To Save You, The Rapture on Any Minute Now and oddly Muse on One By One.
Belting out these mindless predictable anthems in quick succession, singer/guitarist Craig Wellington’s delivery felt forced and cliched. Add to the equation effects-stained vocals on practically every track and derivative songs and you have a gig best described as below average.

CHEMIKAL UNDERGROUND
ABC1, Glasgow, January 31 * * * *

Tonight’s 15th birthday celebration for Scotland’s most respected label may have featured eight acts but if truth be told it will be a night memorable for just one band, the latest addition to Chemikal Underground’s rostrum, The Unwinding Hours.
The brainchild of former Aeroegrammers Craig B and Ian Cook, the five-piece’s display was little short of jaw-dropping, no mean feat given this was their debut performance.
Perfectly bookended by the epic Knut and as singer/guitarist Craig B put it the “really quiet then really loud” Final Hour, it was a flawless twenty-five minutes and one which sets the band up nicely for the imminent release of their self-titled debut LP.
Elsewhere on the bill it was the Phantom Band that stood out with sprawling, multi-layered instrumental Crocodile the pick of their headlining set. As for the rest of the line-up only Emma Pollock really made much of an impact, thanks to a set of all-new material, the highlight of which was Hug The Harbour.

THE LOW ANTHEM
The Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow, January 28 * * * * *

One of the picks of this year’s Celtic Connections, tonight’s performance by Rhodes Island’s The Low Anthem didn’t disappoint – reverential silence engulfed a busy crowd intent on savoring every moment of the quartet’s set.
And rightly so as this was one of those rare evenings when resisting the charms of the band was futile. A night when spines tingled, spirits soared and time seemed to evaporate.
Apparently they’d had a less than successful show the night before but as Anthem leader Ben Knox Miller put it they’d “shaken off the rust”. Few would dispute that after this display. Song after song drew wide-eyed adoration and sustained applause from the Old Fruitmarket audience.
Alongside the truly beguiling Charlie Darwin, songs like Ticket Taker, Senorita and The Ghosts Who Write History Books came alive in a way that eluded the band, not only on their last visit to Glasgow, but also on wax. Authentic, endearing and entirely captivating, tonight The Low Anthem showed just what they’re capable of, and in considerable style too.

CHEW LIPS
King Tut’s, Glasgow, January 26 * *

Generic synth sounds, a less than compelling singer and, most importantly for an electro-pop band, a lack of hooks, made London trio Chew Lips’ headlining set tonight pass in a forgettable blur of blinding lights and uninspired beats.
Opting to follow La Roux’s pop path, Chew Lips’ singer Tigs shares a love of both abstract make-up and costumes with her Kitsune counterpart, but if truth be told tonight it all smacked of imitation, and a poor one of a poor choice at that.
Watching two guys hunched over synths, nodding away isn’t very visually compelling so there’s a lot of pressure on a singer and the material. Tonight neither component equated to anything even vaguely resembling excitement.
Save for Gold Key, we were treated to one big indistinguishable mass of bass, beats, synth and strong but unimaginative vocals. There’s a fair chance that the sight of Tigs dancing like a mime artist while sporting a look best described as ’80s magician’s assistant’ will be the night’s abiding memory for some.
Uninspired, harmless music coupled with an average singer made for a mundane 40 minutes and one that did little to suggest Chew Lips will be experiencing the kind of mainstream success their label-mate is currently enjoying.