Glasvegas, Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow
Tuesday 09 September 2008
To a Scots crowd, Glasvegas may be victims of the Irvine Welsh effect. Feted as sharp-tongued poets of the gutter whose mastery of dialect and intonation evokes a life experience that most will be unfamiliar with, they sound pretty normal north of the border.
Actually, that's not entirely true. They sound utterly triumphant and self-assured, and their work perfectly places amid tear-pulling, chest-swelling songs one view of what it is to be variously Scottish, British and working class in 2008. Yet, James Allan, the Glasgow quartet's vocalist and songwriter, sings with the same words and accent of a thousand impassioned barflies holding forth at a hundred different pubs around this city on any given evening.
Allan sounds like his own audience's internal monologue: in other words, refraining from any hint of an affected transatlantic or Mancunian accent, and it's a beautiful thing to watch band and crowd merge into a perfect understanding of each other right away.
The terse but thrilling nine-song set is straight in, no messing, as a Glaswegian might say. Allan's combination of leather jacket, quiff and sunglasses is part young Elvis and part Jesus and Mary Chain; his brother, guitarist Rab, and bassist Paul Donoghue resemble backup members of Allan's Fifties biker gang, while drummer Caroline McKay plays her kit standing up, like Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie did when he was in the Mary Chain.
Glasvegas stands at the intersection of epic rock and street punk – this must have been what it was like watching U2 or Simple Minds in 1980. The singer also has a social conscience that's in evidence right from the opening "Flowers and Football Tops", about the 2004 murder of Glasgow teenager Kriss Donald. Allan also chastens absentee fathers on "Daddy's Gone": "To see your son on Saturdays/ What way is that to live your life?" And he drives home a rousing point about bullying during "Go Square Go", the title a reference to the Scots slang for a fair fight.
Yet that particular song might end up best remembered for its "Here we fucking go" terrace-chant ending. Like Oasis – the other band discovered by Alan McGee on stage at Glasgow's King Tut's Wah Wah Hut – there might come a time when Glasvegas are required to plane off the rough edges that make them who they are in order to reach the next level of popular appeal. It would be interesting to see if, unlike the Gallagher brothers, they can resist.
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