I’ve often heard it said that Glasvegas’ music is “a bit depressing” — but tonight there’s none of that. Front-man James Allan, dressed head-to-foot in brilliant white rather than his traditional black, along with his troop are evidently ecstatic to be in touring on the back of their second album, “EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK \“, blowing away any doubts about their abilities to follow their critically acclaimed debut. Read on for full impressions and pics.
Proceedings kick off just as they do on the new album, with the band appearing to a recording of “Pain Pain, Never Again”, swiftly followed by “The World Is Yours” and “You”. Newly installed drummer Jonna Löfgren’s influence is immediately apparent — choosing to stand rather than sit behind the kit, just like her predecessor Caroline McKay, she injects a fresh urgency to the new songs we’ve not heard before.
By the time we reach fan favourite “It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry” James has the crowd eating out of his hands. Falling to his knees he rings out every ounce of feeling: “With me on my knees and wondering why? Cross my heart, hope to die it’s my own cheating heart that makes me cry”. It’s a brilliant moment, delivered with absolute passion, a passion which is returned ten-fold from those at the front as he sits, then lies, down on the front of the stage, singing duties handsomely completed for him.
“Shine Like Stars” is the perfect vehicle for Löfgren — with varying rhythms, it’s a prime example of classic Glasvegas alternating with the new, paving the way for James to reach new vocal heights and even a fresh layer of subtle electronica. Rab’s guitar, frequently kept deep in the mix, cuts searingly across the waves of percussion in one of the night’s best moments.
One of the most noticeable changes this time around is that James has now fully assumed the front-man/singer role, no longer playing guitar. This leaves him free to athletically stalk the stage, frequently as if his life depends on it, his all-white outfit uniquely continuing down a brightly lit microphone chord, trailing around the stage after him. It’s a role he seems very much at ease with, and it’s one of Glasvegas’ greatest strengths both visually and in the new dimension the vocals have gained.
This evolution seems to be a combination of factors: the band decamped from Scotland to a beach house in the ever-sunny climes of Santa Monica, Los Angeles to record much of the new album. They insisted on working with legendary producer Flood (U2, The Killers, Smashing Pumpkins, to name but a few) and of course they have a new engine in sticks-lady Löfgren. “Euphoria, Take My Hand” seems almost the embodiment of the “new Glasvegas”, a track it’s hard to see them writing back in 2008, as James sings “Heartbreak, I’m not holding your hand any more – why can’t you understand?”, purging emotions as he goes. Despite this, it still maintains a very “Glasvegas feeling”, and may be one of the best tracks they’ve ever written.
“Geraldine”, a song about social worker, is another highlight of the set after which James proclaims, in as strong a Glaswegian accent as you’re ever likely to hear, “Youse are fuckin’ amazing”. He really means it too, one feels. “Ice Cream Van” builds slowly into a release of white light, before being followed by another winner from the new album in “Lots Sometimes”, the lyrics of which are taped to the floor in the centre of the stage. James thinks he has it just about “in bag the now”, but it’s clear the band are still getting used to these new songs and translating them to their live set.
It’s testament to the quality of their, as yet relatively small, repertoire that you feel that you must have heard all the big anthems by the time we reach encore song number four, but they rightly save their biggest single, “Daddy’s Gone”, to close with. James more or less gives up singing half way through, turning his mic stand to the audience to complete the job. He looks supremely proud.
Songs of loss, infidelity and self-loathing have rarely sounded so euphoric.