It’s hard to say whether the shambolic air that pervaded much of Dallas-born singer/songwriter Caitlin Rose’s set tonight added to or detracted from the country singer’s performance as a whole.

At times the missteps proved quite endearing, adding to the intimate atmosphere. It also managed to distract attention from what was overall a fairly average collection of songs. However as technical difficulties persisted the set did begin to flounder.

Even with perfect sound it’s hard to imagine songs like Learning To Ride, Rabbits and Things Change truly distinguishing themselves, especially given the over-used pedal steel guitar, which by and large conjured up the same feel throughout.

Caitlin Rose’s ‘Own Side’

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The song titles in the following review are not real. Their identities have been changed to protect them from ridicule.

For those of us among the sold-out crowd tonight who didn’t fall for the hype, Sleigh Bells’ 30-minute set tonight proved torturous.

Essentially a karaoke night thanks to the over-powering backing tracks, guitarist of sorts Derek Miller and occasionally-audible singer Alexis Krauss did know how to work the crowd, what poses to strike, postures to make but sadly seemed to have forgotten to write any songs.

Instead tracks like Way Too Bassy, That’s 30 Minutes I Won’t Get Back and Take Me Now (End My Pain) blurred into one turgid ball of noise.

Apparently what they create is noise-pop (50 percent accurate), a term as meaningful as what they really are, a nu-nu-rave band – think a slightly more woeful Crystal Castles.

Borrowing from the Prodigy and RATM on their few moments of coherency, combined with the odd strobe burst may have done the trick for fans but for the rest of us, judging by the post-gig discussions, Sleigh Bells are a loathe-them-or-love-them-band.

TAYLOR HAWKINS & THE COATTAIL RIDERS
Stereo, Glasgow, June 9 * *

Trying to follow his boss Dave Grohl’s example by getting out from behind his kit to try his hand at being a frontman was always going to be a tricky proposition for Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins. Few have succeeded making the leap from the back to the front of the stage.
At least he didn’t strap on a guitar, instead the diminutive drummer was centre stage perched behind his kit pounding out relentless beats and singing as if his life depended on it.
Playing tracks from latest album Red Light Fever, Hawkins’ song writing skills were called into question almost immediately with the first few numbers Not Bad Luck, Louise and Hole In My Shoe feeling particularly dated and uninspired.
The quartet’s cause was further hampered by overly complicated arrangements full of uneasy tempo changes and bouts of endurance-testing drums.
It’s maybe no big surprise that Hawkins’ energetic drumming dominated proceedings. For much of the set it all but obliterated his vocals, but given the quality of his voice it was ultimately no great loss.

Isis @ Stereo 25-10-09

November 9, 2009

ISIS
Stereo, Glasgow, October 25 * * * *

Californian post-metal outfit Isis scored their biggest success to date earlier this year with the release of fifth album Wavering Radiant. The five-piece cracked the Billboard top 100 without airplay or mainstream support – no mean feat given the niche nature of this type of music.
Their most accessible offering thus far, you can just about understand why the band is calling this their “pop album”. Still hardly mainstream-friendly, it marks another evolutionary step in a critically lauded career.
Heads certainly bobbed in unison throughout as the sold-out crowd soaked up the intensity radiating from the stage. From crushing opener Hall Of The Dead to sprawling epic Altered Course, the quintet was locked in their own world.
However if they’d been aware of the inconsistent sound we in the audience had to suffer they might have been less focused. Heavy bass buried Aaron Turner’s albeit sporadic vocals while an overall murkiness on Dulcinea and Backlit lessened their potency.
At the epicenter of proceedings, Aaron Turner was a formidable presence. The front man of few words, both lyrically and in terms of chat, was content to let the music rather than the delivery do the talking. A risky decision, but one that paid off thanks to the compelling nature of the much of tonight’s set.

STRIKE THE COLOURS
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.

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.

CRYSTAL STILTS
Stereo, Glasgow, August 18 * * *

After a memorable display at the Captains Rest back in February, New Yorkers Crystal Stilts returned to Glasgow this evening and the more spacious surrounds of Stereo. But unlike their first appearance where a packed crowd threatened to swamp the stage, tonight the half-full basement venue lacked the intensity of atmosphere that contributed to make that night such a success.
Instead the elevated stage, intermittently poor sound and a far from enthusiastic crowd combined to lessen the impact of what could have been another potent display.
That said there was still much to savour musically during their somewhat insular performance. Played at breakneck speed, The Dazzle and Crystal Stilts were early highlights. The latter saw enigmatic singer Brad Hargett at the peak of his powers, delivering maudlin monotone vocals with deadpan aplomb.
As the set progressed there were moments when the droning nature of some songs, and Hargett’s love of reverb, threatened to blur where one track ended and another began but with The SinKing all the elements of the band’s psychedelic garage rock came together in some style.
Given the fleeting applause that came their way it may not have been the end of tour high they’d hoped for but with audience numbers swelling and the critics by-and-large on side, the follow-up to debut Alight of Night should be eagerly anticipated.

THE BIRTHDAY MASSACRE
Stereo, Glasgow, July 14 *

Tonight was The Birthday Massacre’s first and with any luck last Scottish show. It’s not that the Canadian six-piece weren’t entertaining at times, it’s just that when they did entertain it was for all the wrong reasons.
From the off it was hard not to snigger at the frequent bouts of synchronised pogo-ing, the clichéd posturing and singer Chibi’s laboured presence. Equally it was difficult to stifle the yawns that all too often accompanied songs devoid of ideas.
Add into the equation watery sound and it all became a bit like a school band playing the assembly hall – not that perfect sound would have made much difference. Opener Red Stars epitomised the sextet’s brand of ethereal electro-goth-rock, occasionally menacing but ultimately limp.
Without the hooks capable of backing up their grandstanding tendencies the music became secondary and, consequently, the delivery comedic. It meant any sinister undertones took on cartoon dimensions. Not that that deterred the pocket of diehards who bounced and clapped when prompted.
Video Kid provoked the most shrieks of delight from the small predominately female audience but with the initial mini hysteria and the atmosphere it generated short-lived, it was a minor blip of excitement in an otherwise boring night.

LITTLE JOY
Stereo, Glasgow, January 17 * * * *

Bands preaching the virtues of Glasgow crowds is nothing new. Often these platitudes feel rehearsed and unnatural, but even the most ardent cynic would have found it difficult to stifle a smile every time Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti told his Little Joy band mates and the crowd at large, how amazing it was to be here. As it turned out the feeling was very much mutual.
Thanks to the camaraderie of their performance, the strength of their songwriting and the infectious enthusiasm of singer/guitarist Rodrigo Amarante, it really was a night to remember at Stereo.
Full of energy and with a very natural presence guitarist Moretti, Amarante and third member multi-instrumentalist Binki Shapiro clearly enjoyed themselves throughout but especially on the stripped-down, jazz-infused Unattainable, the song ending in a fit of giggles. As the set progressed the three, complete with backing from excellent tour support The Dead Trees, got more and more relaxed, as a result the music flowed with an effortless cool.
Before a rousing and hugely entertaining encore of Paul McCartney’s Eat At Home the band, numbering eight by the end, had trooped off stage to the kind of adulatory response usually saved for hometown heroes – little wonder given the huge joy experienced by players and watchers alike for “final” number Brand New Start.