The Bottom Lounge-Chicago, IL
April 6, 2009
Pictures By Peter Weiss
By Anthony Kuzminski
Rock n’ roll is a delicacy I have always felt is best served by deafening live shows that leave you drained, fatigued and on the verge of losing consciousness. I’ve never believed in having the act leaving you wanting more. I want to see marathon shows where I personally feel that the artist is going above and beyond what you think they are capable of. Now, few acts can attain the Springsteen workmanlike theatrics of the live performance, but an even tougher obstacle is making an impression with a short and succinct set, a near impossible feat. However, while their show was a solid two-hours shorter than most of Springsteen’s show, Glasvegas leaves a haunting and immediate imprint that shocks your system. I often admire many bands for giving their all, but few do I want to see again. Glasvegas is one of those bands that I can promise you will be opening up for a major band sooner than later and before you know it, may be headlining much bigger venues before too long. Their all too brief 55-minute set in Chicago recently is among the shortest I have seen in years, but fear not, it was the perfect length. Glasvegas, a foursome from Glasgow, may be a sonically complex band, yet they pull off an enthralling live show. I want the artist to not just rock me, but slay me and few can muster this over the course of ninety-minutes, let alone sixty, but Glasvegas did so with ease.
Trying to pigeonhole Glasvegas into a genre or typecasting them against bands that came before them would be far too easy. The band consists of four highly accomplished musicians who together construct a wholly matchless and alluring sound ready made for stadiums. Lead by vocalist and rhythm guitarist, James Allan, Glasvegas is the rare band that can evoke fierce feelings through the sheer drive of their performance. I have had their self-titled debut album on consistent rotation the last few months but doubted the band could successfully recreate the sensational sounds that inhabit the record. I’m pleased to say that they didn’t just replicate the sound, but delivered it with an insurrectionary spirit of sneering endearment. Lead guitarist Rab Allan, bassist Paul Donoghue and drummer Caroline McKay (all dressed head to toe in black) complimented Allan who brings the extravagant aural muscle that defines their sound. Beneath the grisly demeanor of their sound are pining lyrics that are as angelic as they are auspicious, which were featured on the evening’s opening number, “Geraldine”. Allan infused the verses with a dreamy punctuation (“I’ll be the angel on your shoulder”). The lyrics may not have always been decipherable but a great front man doesn’t need to speak clearly, he needs to convey intoxicating sentiments and evoke resilient feelings, which is exactly what James Allan did.
Soaked in wallowing howls and biting reverb, “Flowers and Football Tops” reveals profound passion through the absolute force of their performance. The heart wrenching ballad of a child who dies is delivered with furious sentiment (“My baby is gone…”). In the course of one song, the band evokes devastation, consoling and ultimately prayer to heal. The song is as epic as “Amazing Grace” with a bit more bite and distortion. “Polmont on My Mind” twisted and turned out wailing crescendos while “Fuck You, It's Over” was downright vicious. “S.A.D. Light” was sung by lead singer James Allan in a pensive, reflective almost yearning voice akin to a love torn school boy heightened by drummer Caroline McKay’s snare drum which provides an unleashing fury of bullet shots amidst the reverberating sonic the rest of the band provided bringing the song to a awe-inspiring climactic finale. “Go Square Go” closed the main set in a storming fist flying frenzy illustrating what a modern day Clash concert would look like. Finding a balance between simplistic high school stories and weighty life experiences, Allan shifts gears between heart-on-his-sleeve emotions with profound life changing experiences. If you think you know what this band or their songs are about, I suggest you give a closer listen. In the course of one album and show, they reveal layers of emotional wreckage with a silver lining of hope, featured brilliantly on elegiac “Ice Cream Van”:
There’s a storm on the horizon
And for that I can’t see the sun
For I’ll keep a waiting on the pavement
For the ice-cream van to come
As the evening’s finale, “Daddy’s Gone”, transcended throughout the Bottom Lounge, the crowd raised hands to the air to engage and enrage. Voices soared above the band and drifted into the air as the band left the stage one by one as the crowd continued to chant the chorus amidst a dreamlike and churning strobe light extravaganza.
Glasvegas is empathetic rock theater drenched with ambiance and cathartic melodies which they showcased in their poignant set drenched in atmospheric distortion. Some bands need a dozen performers to recreate what Glasvegas does with four. For a band who takes to the stage with minimal gimmicks, they deliver a stadium-ready sound that isn’t just lush but they entrance everyone who comes within contact of them. The music of Glasvegas yearns to be played in stadiums to be swallowed not just by thousands but ten of thousands. Some may feel the music is highfalutin, but if you listen carefully and see the visionary significance of their storming musicianship, you’ll stand there in awe at their ability to capture this magic in a bottle. This is no mere pastiche but a band who has a grasp on their artistry and who can convey it to a large audience. If there was any limitation to the evening, it was the size of the venue. The band entrances you with a cocky snarl paired with heart wrenching lyrics and a mysterious yet consoling aura that oozes off the stage and into your psyche. This is a band ready to take their shot in the ring for the chance at the title.
Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMusic Network and his daily writings can be read at The Screen Door and can be contacted at thescreendoor AT gmail DOT com.
Set List for 4/6/09 Chicago Show:
It's My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry
Polmont On My Mind
Fuck You, It's Over
Flowers And Football Tops
Ice Cream Van
Go Square Go
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