Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Live Gig Review: Manics at Barrowlands, Oneohtrix Point Never at CCA

Manic Street Preachers, Glasgow Barrowlands, 29.9.2013

OneohtrixPoint Never, Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow 1.10.2013

A couple of contrasting gig reviews this week. First up was the full-on, anthemic rock of the Manic Street Preachers at the Barrowlands, Glasgow. I've always had a soft spot for the Manics without ever particularly being a fan, they seem like a nice bunch, they've written some catchy tunes and they managed to get a song to number 1 about the International Brigades going off to fight Franco's Fascists in Spain - so fair play to them. If I was asked to list a few of their songs off the top of my head I'd get stuck after about four, but I was listening to some of their back catalogue before heading to this gig and could sing along to about twenty of their songs. I've been listening to their new album, Rewind The Film, a fair bit too. I like its world-weary vibe, with the strings and brass fitting in well alongside guest vocals from the likes of Richard Hawley. There are some great tracks on it, but 30-Year War with its "endless parade of old Etonian scum, line the front benches so what is to be done?" finishes it off nicely. I was wittering on recently about Dostoyevsky and Lenin taking things from Chernyshevsky's novel What Is To Be Done? Is this the Manics at it to? You wouldn't be surprised.

They have been coming regularly to The Barrowlands to perform, according to them this was their 11th gig at the venue, but it was the first time that I'd seen them. I went with my brother and cousin who have seen them umpteen times, yet keep coming back for more. They were there in The Garage, in King Tut's and now at the Barrowlands. If I was expecting a subdued meander through the new material then the opening bars of Motorcycle Emptiness had the crowd bouncing, hurling beer and set the tempo for most of the gig. There were quieter phases too. Some brass from an excellent trumpeter/saxophonist and a wee acoustic bit in the middle by James Dean Bradfield, which encompassed Big Country, Franki Valli and their own Everlasting. They managed to swing from that to the pogo-ing of Revol and Motown Junk seamlessly and I can see why people would come to see them again and again as they are proper showmen. They invited everyone back here in April. I'll probably pass, I think I've seen them now.

Has anyone ever seen Mark Thomas and James Dean Bradfield in the same room?
So after bouncing up and down in a sold out Barrowlands, it was time to stand with folded arms and indulge in some chin-stroking in the more sedate environs of the CCA for Oneohtrix Point Never. The name under which Daniel Lopatin performs I have always found annoyingly fussy. The son of Soviet immigrants to the USA, he hails from Massachusetts and is based in New York. His latest album of beeps, pings and samples is familiar from what has gone before, if maybe a bit more gentle, cheery and accessible. It is always interesting with this type of electronic music to see whether a performer just presses "play" on their iMac and pretends to be doing something important (eg Grimes), or performs and gives an audience something fresh (eg Fuck Buttons).

Before that we had Glasgow based filmmaker and Turner Prize nominee Luke Fowler & musician Richard Youngs. The former controlled drum machine and electronic jiggery-pokery whilst the latter played a Casio organ and provided falsetto vocals. The end result had a woozy 80s feel, like the Human League's Dare album smashed into a ZX Spectrum sound chip. (Example here)

Before Lopatin came on stage he seemed to set out his stall as wanting to hide from us. His decks were set off to on side of the stage, almost behind an amp, with a screen for projected graphics centre stage. Then he turned the smoke machine into overdrive, which unfortunately set off the fire alarms in the CCA. Whilst the lights stayed off and the siren sounded, nobody left the hall for 10 minutes as we all tried to work out if this was the start of his performance or not. Eventually we all trailed out, then back in once the smoke had cleared. Without the faintest of glances at the audience, shrugging of shoulders or witty aside he bent over his laptop and pressed play. So it was to be one of those performances.

I had feared from reading some interviews with him that he may be a bit dour, earnest and humourless and that was how it turned out. The computer generated visuals were banal and added nothing to the show. Lopatin barely seemed to be aware that we were in the room and hidden away in his corner he may well have been tweaking the volume control up and down for all I know. The music stands alone fine, particularly his earlier, more droning stuff, during which even he seemed to become a bit more animated but as a show it added nothing the studio-produced work. I wasn't the only one in the room untouched by his charms, but the cry from the crowd between tunes of "D'you dae weddings?" whooshed over his head.

I like the music he makes, and I'll carry on listening to it, but I suspect I've been to my last Oneohtrix Point Never gig. If he ever soundtracks a low budget 70s sci-fi film, that I'd go to see.

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