Thursday, July 30, 2009

Glasvegas at the Henry Fonda, 7/28/09

Because I care about you, faithful reader, sometimes I go to shows just because live music is great, or on the recommendation of a friend, even if I don't know the band that's playing. That's what happened Tuesday night when I saw these Glaswegian (or would it be Glasvegan?) chaps at Hollywood's favorite stop for up-and-coming acts. Admittedly, I bought the record last week so I'd at least know what to expect, but I only listened to it a couple times. In the end, I'm really glad I did, on both counts. 

My buddy Morgan and I went a little early because we haven't yet become too cool for openers, despite his telling me that the single he heard from the opening band, Ida Maria, was not that great. "We've already paid, right?" I reasoned, "Let's get our money's worth." As it turned out, the silly pop punk of "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked," the song he had heard, was not entirely representative of their style, which I would say is much more straight ahead power pop. The band is very good, especially the rhythm section, and Ms. Maria is an at times goofy, at times sincere, always engaging stage presence, with a Kathleen Turner-esque speaking voice but the singing of Joplin meets Bjork. That sounds like high praise, and it is; I was really impressed by her vocals, and even though the songs weren't a whole lot more than fun, she made up for it. I'm afraid to check it out on record, but as a live act, and especially an opener, I was totally satisfied. Good job, Ida, you impressed a couple of inveterate music snobs.

After Ida Maria finished up (with the extremely fun "Oh My God") came the interminable wait between bands, usually the worst part of any show, in particular if you aren't drinking. And it went on...and on...and on...until finally, the curtains raised again to flashing blue lights and four people who looked like greasers out late on a school night came onto the stage. These young pups were the ones making us wait? And the drummer only had a three-piece kit? And was it really necessary in the hot, dark building for lead singer James Allan to be wearing sunglasses and a scarf? My pretentious radar starting going off, but then they started playing, and it didn't matter anymore.

Now, Glasvegas isn't doing anything groundbreaking, let's get that out in the open right now. They clearly love Jesus and Mary Chain and shoegaze, and I can even hear some Ramones similarities, at least in the melodies. But they do what they do pretty damn well, and a few of the songs from their self-titled debut are really good, the kind of songs that you wanna put on repeat. I won't even attempt a set list, but they played the single "Geraldine" and another album standout, "It's My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry." Lyrically they're somewhat suspect, with lines like "Liar, liar, liar, liar, pants on fire" and "Go Square Go's" dumb but undeniably chantable "Here we, here we, here we fucking go!" That song was another highlight, as was the song I think is their best, "Flowers and Football Tops," which Allan's deep Scottish brogue imbues with plaintive emotion. The man can sing, and when he gets to the chorus plea of "Baby, why you?" the song really soars. Overall I'd give the show an 8, and the album a 6.5. Hey, everything's better live, you know?

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