Category: <span>Gigs</span>

Every now and then the stars align and, as you head to bed on Sunday night, you realise just how epic your weekend was (and how quickly it went). Sometimes it’s not really just what you did, but who you shared it with, and it’s telling that this weekend ticked all those boxes.

Not only did I attend some great events, I also spent time with some of my favourite people. What’s not to like?

Friday evening

My weekend started with a couple of post-work drinks with a good friend who has been wonderfully supportive these past few months. She’s been as good at listening to me as she has at giving me a kick when I need to get past ‘myself’.

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ROYAL BLOOD 🤘

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Then it was time to head off to the SSE Hydro for the Royal Blood gig. Quite the upgrade from the last time I saw them, at Barrowlands, but they filled the Hydro (literally and sonically) and it’s fascinating to see how easily they have made the transition from ‘upcoming band’ to arena filling rock stars. They put on a great show, seemed to be having a lot of fun themselves, and definitely know how to work a crowd. Stonkingly good gig!

Hat tip to support band Blood Honey who could be one to watch, and a resounding booooo for At The Drive-In (awful) and the black ice outside the Hydro that I slipped on when I arrived resulting in a sprained wrist and some bruises (mostly to my pride).

Saturday

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OHHHH YEAHHHHHH

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No Bootcamp (cos sprained wrist) but off to Murrayfield in the hope that Scotland might beat Australia. Final score, Scotland 53, Australia 24!!! Sure, Australia were down to 14 for the second half but Scotland played so well I think we’d have won it against 15. So good to see Scotland playing attacking expansive rugby, and some stout defence as well, especially their line speed. Bodes well for the 6 Nations! #AsOne

A few post game beers in Edinburgh and then home to watch it all over again on TV! A great day out with my best mates.

Sunday

Popped down to Dumbarton see my parents for lunch, had planned to visit my sister, her fiancé and my gorgeous niece but said niece was full of the cold so I steered clear. Drove to there with cheesy singalong tunes playing (yes I have a playlist called that) and drove the long way home on purpose just to hear a few more tracks. Nothing quite like a bit of top of yer lungs car singing and to hell what anyone thinks!

And then it was Sunday evening which brought an introduction to Campari, Martini and Champagne cocktails. Delicious!

Sometimes weekends like that, with little time to chill out and relax, can be exhausting and, whilst I’m a bit tired today, I walked home on Sunday evening with the biggest smile on my face. That said, next weekend is a little quieter which is just as well before we head into the usual flurry of social activities that marks the coming festive season.

Now I just need to find time to buy some presents…

Gigs Life Sport

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…ONE DAY I realised that I wanted to create a show that would take us back to our childhood dreams; A show which would help spectators be released from the jail of adulthood and rediscover their forgotten childhood.

Slava Polunin – creator of Slava’s Snow Show

A few weeks back a friend popped up on Facebook and asked if anyone fancied going to see Slava’s Snow Show. I’d seen a few clips of it from last year and immediately said yes. Roll forward to yesterday evening and I realised, as we took our seats, I didn’t really know what the show was about.

And I’m still not entirely sure today.

Aside from the main character, an old droopy clown in bright yellow, there are six other performers, all dressed similarly in green gowns, large clown feet and hats. They come and go, sometimes as integral parts of the performance, sometimes just to provide a moment of hilarity.

There is no dialogue to speak of but none is needed. This is largely a physical performance and, with the exception of one telephone exchange (which may be in Russian but the vocalisation doesn’t matter) the full range of emotions are expressed in a slow, controlled way, a tilt of a head, a lean of a shoulder, a beatific smile, or a simple look to the audience.

Nor is there a story as such, just a variety of set pieces that gently nudge you along, providing delight after delight. At times it teeters on the brink of something akin to tragedy, and the slightly grotesque quality of the performers adds a wonderful dark tone when needed, but then a sudden burst of physicality transforms the piece and you realise you’ve sat, rapt, with your own huge smile across your face the entire time.

Naturally what will stick in the mind of many are the prop driven extravaganzas, with the intermission preceded by a large cobweb type blanket being stretched from the stage all the way to the back of the stalls, the audience passing it over their hands and becoming one in the tangle of the fibres (which made the dash to the bar all the more interesting).

And then the finale. The weather turns, Slava is confronted with a snowstorm and suddenly giant fans start up, blasting the audience and filling the theatre with snow. Sitting in your chair, the air ripples past you, and you watch the oncoming snow storm until you are in it, with snow catching in your clothes as it swirls around you. It’s utterly utterly magical.

It turns out that Slava’s Snowshow isn’t really about the exceptional clown performances on stage, isn’t about the clever staging and use of props, and it isn’t about the perfect comic timing on display; watching a man fall off a chair three times in a row doesn’t SOUND funny but was hilarious.

At the end of the show, with massive inflatable spheres bouncing around over the audience, all I could see where smiling, happy, carefree faces. From the opening bars of La Petite Fille De La Mar (which wonderful encapsulates the off-kilter world you are about to enter) I was transformed from a curious adult looking for a diversion on a cold Wednesday evening, to a child, playing with a balloon in my parents front room at Christmas.

And, as the man himself said, that’s what the show is all about, and what a wonderful time we had rediscovering those childhood joys.

Art Gigs Life Theatre

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As a packed out Academy sang along with the final refrain of the evening, myself included in my usual slightly off-key baritone, Weezer acknowledged the crowd with well deserved smiles I stood and let the memories of twenty plus years wash over me.


From the minute they stepped on the stage, ripping their way through the first few tracks without pause, it was clear this band were exactly as you expected them, only louder. Sometimes this doesn’t work if the band can’t bring an extra dimension to their songs, but sometimes it does and a lot of that is down to the strength of the songs themselves.

Weezer sit in my record library in the category best defined as ‘not played all that often but when I remember about them I love every track’. Their riff heavy pop songs play to a sweet spot in my musical psyche and the slightly offsetting visual of the short, geek spectacled, slight lead sing and songwriter thrashing out some stupidly catchy chord sequences, only made the energy coming from the stage all the more obvious.

Watching a live band settle into a gig is always fascinating, and after those first quick fire tracks despite Weezer showed now sign of abating, cramming 21 songs into a 90 minute set, you could see their energy levels rise to meet where the bouncing fans were from the outset.

But it’s not just noisy guitars, oh no, that River guy knows how to write a catchy rephrase and almost every song was sung back at the band word for perfect word. The setlist also had a good rhythm to it, letting both band and audience breathe when needed, before heading straight back into massive riffs.

Lacking a flamboyant front man, Weezer stick to what they know best, good simple rock songs and sometimes that’s all you need to send a hot, sweaty, happy crowd out into the Glasgow rain to cool off.


Addendum: Rivers Cuomo features in an episode of Song Exploder discussing his song writing approach in general, and how ‘Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori’ was created.

Gigs

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How many gigs do you attend each year? Which band have you seen most often? Which venue is your most attended? What month is ‘gig month’ for you?

With quite a few gigs lined up in the coming weeks I’ve been busy scouring setlist.fm to create some sample playlists in Spotify to give me a sense of what said gigs may contain. Not all bands stick to fixed setlists though – Pearl Jam change theirs dramatically for each gig – but it gives me a sense of what to expect and has highlighted a couple of tracks I tend to skip, so it’ll be interesting to hear those particular tracks played live.

It’s always interesting seeing what a band considers setlist worthy versus my own tastes, both when they match and when they don’t. Why is THAT track a crowd favourite, when THIS track isn’t? Ahhh the joys of subjectivity.

It’s a fun bit of pre-gig prep but does leave me wondering why there isn’t a better integration between setlist.fm and Spotify? Why is that not a thing? A value add to both services and possibly even a way to monetise setlist.fm? The ability to login to setlist.fm, find a setlist, and have a Spotify playlist sitting waiting for me if I want it, well that’s something I’d definitely pay a subscription for, wouldn’t you?

I’m aware of things like Setify but I’m not massively confident in their long-term viability and that’s really my concern and having been stung by a few services falling away I find much more inclined to subscribe, contribute, or tip, to keep a service that I find useful active and maintained.

Take, for example, lanyard.fm.

The service was based on a simple premise – find a listing of a gig you’ve attended and add it to your ‘lanyard’ – and which had some nice touches; allowed crowd sourced entries, showed total counts (hi Elbow, I’ve seen you 8 times already), and included the setlisting from, you guessed it, setlist.fm.

Alas it seems lanyard.fm is no longer being developed or supported; they’ve turned off the ability to add new entries meaning if the gig you attended isn’t already in their database you are plum out of luck. Booooo to transient web services.

Undeterred I did what any self respecting geek would do and spent a couple of hours last weekend going through all my kept ticket stubs (I think I have ticket stubs for all but 3 or 4 of the gigs I’ve attended) and logged them in a shiny new spreadsheet of my own creation. Date, Band, Venue, Location, and Notes.

And with all that data logged there is the chance to do a little bit of analysis, I mean what’s the point of having a spreadsheet if you don’t throw in a pivot table or three, right? I now know that:

  • I have attended 141 gigs, the first on 8th August, 1989
  • My busiest gig year was 2015 with 17 gigs
  • November is the most popular month by far with 30 gigs, December has 18, and April has 16
  • My most attended venue in Glasgow is the Academy (formerly the Carling, now the O2)
  • Elbow are my most seen band with 9 gigs*, Martin Stephenson and the Daintess I’ve seen 6 times, and Band of Skulls and The Silencers joint third on 5 gigs.
  • I’ve not ventured far outside Glasgow (126 gigs) with Edinburgh (5), and Manchester (4) rounding out the top 3

What does all this tell me?

Well it tells me that I need to mix up my locations and get out of Glasgow a bit more, and that I need to try and spread things out across different months because I know I get a bit “gig fatigued” come December. It also means I have targets to beat for 2018! Ohhh yeah, competitive gig going, that’s where it’s at!!

How about you? Do you keep a track of which gigs you go to?

* I’m including the next time I’ll see them in 2018, already got the tickets!

Gigs

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The Barrowlands is probably my favourite Glasgow gig venue. Large enough to generate a good crowd atmosphere, small enough to feel intimate, and tarnished enough to feel alive, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a gig there that wasn’t good.

Add in a band that has a good live reputation and it was with an intrigued anticipation that I stood and waited through the last couple of tracks of the support act, Hot Chip’s James Goddard, for my first ever LCD Soundsystem gig.

LCD Soundsystem have bounced around my music conscious since they first arrived, I was aware of them but nothing really clicked with me until Sounds of Silver where they started to make sense. That said their tracks increasingly find their way on to my playlists and after catching a little of them at Glastonbury I was keen to see a full show.

They played two nights in Glasgow – apparently they wanted to play more because they only wanted to play at the Barrowlands – and seeing photos and videos of the Tuesday performance only heightened the anticipation. I love live music, I love the way bands can play with a song, I love the altered acoustics, the energy and vitality that can elevate a so-so album track to an uplifting and transendent moment not to be forgotten.

Sometimes those moments are easily forged, if you are seeing a favourite band then it’s a short step to take (for me EVERY Elbow gig is the best ever), but if you are lucky a band can take your impression of them and weave it into something much much more. I had such an experience back in 2007, again in the Barrowlands, with a group that was just about to rocket into the stadium headling stratosphere. I’d listened to both of their albums but, going into that gig, I wasn’t massively convinced that Arcade Fire would be that big a deal…

And so it was last night. A band I know, but wouldn’t make my top 10 (20?) list, took my expectation of at least seeing a good live show, ripped it up, threw it in my face, then spent a couple of hours sonically hugging me whilst bashing me over the head with a ferocity that just isn’t evident anywhere on their albums.

Frontman James Murphy is transformed from a quietly spoken voice to a booming roar, exalting the crowd and pulling us into each moment with him. The songs become all the richer and more powerful as they are rendered into this wonderful communal space, full of passion and energy, which the good denizens of the Barrowlands were more than happy to absorb and reflect back ten times over, and so it continued, through song after song.

Add to all of that a band that were absolutely together (one over-eager drummer moment aside!), a light show that was as simple and effective as it was smart, and at worst this would’ve been a very slick, composed performance. Thankfully the enthusiasm of everyone involved – band and audience – made it so much more than that, and that is where the true amazing joy of this gig was found, a collaboration, a release of emotion, a raw connection.

I’m running out of hyperbole…

At one point last night it suddenly struck me that I was smiling, a great big wide grin, and had been for about an hour. I was utterly engrossed as the setlist lead me through a pitch perfect series of songs that seemed to build and build to the final piano jangling, anthemic chorus where I was bouncing along, hands raised to the skies, singing “where are your friends tonight?”

Answer, right here, all around me. This manic bunch of leaping lunatics, just as lost in the ecstasy of this moment as I was.

Thank you LCD Soundsystem, for bringing us all together for this. Thank you.

Gigs

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Band of Skulls, innit @bandofskulls

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First things first, don’t let the name put you off, this is not a death metal (or any other kind of metal) band. Think bluesy rock, think White Stripes, think Slade, think Led Zeppelin if the songs were more melodic? … ohh I’m going to hell for that comment!

I’ve seen them a few times now, from their first album tour where me and another 60 odd souls realised that ‘hey, these guys are good’ to an audience of several hundred a few years later. I am still waiting on their “big breakthrough” but, like Eagles of Death Metal (also NOT a metal band), I’m quite happy that they remain reasonably under the radar; although to be fair Band of Skulls have supported Muse so I’m still not sure why mentioning their name to people I know enjoy rock music still illicits blank stares.

This time around saw them performing at The Bungalow in Paisley – one of four smaller gigs they are doing to support Independent Venue Week – and I joined maybe 100 other souls at this sold out gig. Not a venue I’d been in before, but I’d say it would be at capacity at about 150 so it was a bit odd to see so much room for a sold out gig, maybe Monday night syndrome?

I feel sorry for those who had tickets and didn’t show up because they missed a belter of a gig. It was pretty much a showcase for all of their best known tracks, a few they admitted they hadn’t played all that often, and a chance to bed in a new drummer (which is why these smaller gigs probably appealed ahead of a new album and bigger tour next year no doubt).

There is something wonderful about a venue so small that you are feet away from the band, and their ‘stage’ is raised all of 10 inches off the ground. Even standing at the back I could see the band members smiling, laughing, chatting to the audience away from the mics. The type of gig where you feel as involved as the band and the energy flows back and forth.

Band of Skulls are my type of rock band. Heavy at times, but with good tunes and a sense that they don’t take themselves all that seriously, after all it’s only rock and roll (and I like it). There are no 5 minute guitar wank solos either, just tune after pounding tune, and then a sudden calm for a quieter song that hushes the entire venue. Captivating.

Worth a mention were the support act, Vanilla Sky Mistress. A little too snare drum heavy for my liking, it was only towards the end of their set that I realised they had more than two drums on stage… that said with a lead singer who knows how to use her voice (and what a voice!) they could be a name to look out for or, you know, change?

Not a bad way to spend a Monday evening, and a great reminder of the power of connection that you get in a small venue.

Gigs Music

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I mentioned the upcoming run of gigs I have and last Friday was the next on the list. I’d been off work a few days beforehand and if I’m honest I probably should’ve stayed at home and rested, but sometimes you just have to push through. YOLO!

And so me and a couple of friends found ourselves enviously eyeing up the clever people who had brought cushions whilst we sat on cold hard concrete and waited for the ever entertaining KT Tunstall to appear on stage at the Kelvingrove Bandstand.

I love this venue (but must remember a cushion next time!). It’s a wonderful little outdoor amphitheatre in the middle of Kelvingrove park, and even though that usually means you have to be prepared for a shower or two, it feels small enough to be intimate but that wide open space to the sky above you that makes everything a little more magical.

We got there in time for the last few songs from the support act – Pictish Trail – who, whilst having plenty of energy, seemed to have forgotten about some slightly more important things like melody…

It was as the sun started to head to the horizon that our tiny hero of the evening strode on stage and after a quick hello launched into Saving My Face. I mention this only as part apology to my friends, on whom I’d foisted a Spotify playlist of tracks in preparation for the gig, as I entirely missed this one!

The full setlist is here but I think she hit the mark with each choice and remains one of the better artists at mixing old songs with new, ohhh and check out that cover version which had everyone screeching their way to those top notes (and my sincerest apologies to Andy Bell for utterly butchering that song in my attempt to mimic his falsetto).

I’ve seen KT a few times, although mostly solo, and it was nice to hear more of the back story of her breakthrough appearance on Jools Holland where she hilariously explained her ‘costume choices’ that day…

And it’s here where she shines. The in-between moments, the casual banter, the bringing together of a disparate group of people – as she points out, never before and never again will that exact group of people be in the same space at the same time – into one big shared experience. Her gigs are all the richer for it and, similar to Guy Garvey, you get the sense that she would be just a cool person to hang with over a pint or three and ohhh boy would there be a lot of laughter!

Personal highlight for me was watching the realisation on the faces of my friends when they figured out what was going on when KT brought out her kazoo during Black Horse and the Cherry Tree (no spoilers but if you’ve seen her live you’ll know!), and I have to admit that during a couple of her slower songs as dusk set in and the spotlit trees behind the stage slowly cycled through a rainbow of colours I felt a real sense of pride and happiness. There I was, watching a talented Scottish artist performing in my dear green place all in the company of my closest friends.

Not a bad way to start off gig season, not a bad way at all.

Gigs

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Last Friday I took a day off work to go and walk about Glasgow Green, on the opening day of the inaugural year of TRNSMT Festival.

And no, I don’t know why they don’t like vowels.

The festival ran the entire weekend – with Kasabian and Biffy Clyro the headliners on Saturday and Sunday respectively – but I was happy enough to score a one day ticket, ostensibly to see one of my favourite all-time bands, Radiohead. The last time I saw them was also at Glasgow Green, on a dreich evening with a weird atmosphere, and it was a bit of a disappointment. Not so this time round!

I arrived around 3pm, quickly made it through security (well organised and friendly too) and set about exploring the site just as Everything Everything started their set. Aside from the main stage, there was a second smaller stage sponsored by King Tuts, the Jack Rocks tent (guess the bourbon sponsor for that one), and the Smirnoff DJ bus. Given the size of the site, I think the layout was ideal, it didn’t feel crammed and there weren’t any noticeable pinch points either. Admittedly that may have changed during the downpours on Sunday.

The line-up on Friday was a bit of a mixed bag for my tastes but I was suitably impressed with what I heard from Rag N Bone man (that guy has got a set of pipes) and although London Grammar sounded very beautiful it seemed an odd choice for a main stage (clearly I was in a minority given the crowds). I spent more time in the early afternoon at the King Tuts stage listening to Be Charlotte, Saint Motel, Honne, and Louis Berry. I even managed to squeeze in a couple of wanders back to the Jack Rocks tent (and so discovered The Sundowners and Black Honey).

A minor criticism would be the on-stage timings; It seemed, more than once, that all the live acts finished their sets around the same time meaning there was a lull in proceedings across the site. It was at those times that I, and many others, gravitated towards the thumping bass emanating from the Smirnoff dance bus, hidden away in a wee glade down next to the river, which had a constant stream of DJs lined up.

It was great to see local businesses strongly represented on-site, with many of the food stalls given over to the likes of Marthas and Nomad, and overall it seemed pretty well organised, even if they were a couple of minor last minute fixes going on (one of which to put up some screening round the gents urinals!).

So far, I was enjoying my afternoon, wandering around and soaking in the fun, friendly, atmosphere, itself a nice change from the moronity that T in the Park had become.

And then, all of a sudden, it was time for Radiohead.

First things first, no, they didn’t play Creep. I wasn’t that bothered myself, although it would’ve been good to hear the mass sing-a-long it would have started. Ohhh and they didn’t play Just either, not that anyone seems to mind that (except me).

It was about 9.40pm when they crept on-stage and immediately launched into two tracks from OK Computer; Let Down which worked surprisingly well as a set opener, and then Lucky which soared much higher than it does on the album.

From there they ran the gamut of newer tracks and fan favourites, treating us to the full range of the exploration and sonic devices they’ve toyed with from OK Computer onwards. There, There and 2 + 2 = 5 were nice reminders that when they put their mind to it they are a very good rock band, Ful Stop and Everything In Its Right Place pushing them out into thumping bass driven dance music, all underpinned by that ridiculous voice that seems to be getting better and richer with age.

One thing you cannot say Thom Yorke lacks is emotion (even if it’s very controlled), and whilst the crowd interaction was minimal, the big screens showed his commitment and love of what he was doing with smiles and fond glances out to the crowd. In fact everyone on-stage looked like they were having fun, with pleny of smiles going round from band member to band member. Age changes us all? A happy Radiohead?

Two encores zipped us back to OK Computer, with a huge roar for Paranoid Android and, yes, I shed a tear when they played Fake Plastic Trees* (I always do), and then it was a quick final trip back to The Bends before a rousing send-off with perennial favourite Karma Police, the crowd well enough versed to continue repeating the final refrain as the band left the stage.

And then it was all over and, as I sat on the last bus home I realised just how perfectly that final song had captured my experience. For one day, in the heart of my home city, wandering round a festival site, bumping into friends, chatting to strangers, enjoying cider in the early evening sun, I was transported out of the city and into the festival bubble where I happily lost myself, if only for a few hours.

* bonus, all three Glasto performances sync’d in one video

Gigs Music

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