Monday 26 March 2018

Young Fathers. Barrowlands, Glasgow. March 2018

Young Fathers. Barrowlands, Glasgow. March 2018. Live gig review

I have said it before, but it is worth saying again, Young Fathers are by far the best live act on the go just now. They are growing their following whilst barely changing the formula that they started out with: three Edinburgh men singing, contorting, crooning and shouting over a droning electronic background and vigorous live drumming. Live they give the impression of barely contained rage, and building pressure with little more than a dour Scottish sneer on show, the only visible release onstage is when Kayus Bankole convulses in an intermittent blur of flailing arms and legs. 

Cocoa Sugar by Young Fathers
With the release of their latest album, Cocoa Sugar, they continue to produce a string of strong songs, which are uniquely "Young Fathers" when you hear them. Their very presence is a statement, but they don't beat you around the head with it, it's the nusic that assaults you. 

When it was announced that they were playing the Glasgow Barrowlands, tickets sold out within days. The question was whether their intense stage persona, which doesn't usually involve crowd pleasing "HALLO GLASGOOOOOW" shout-outs, would manage to lift the ballroom crowd. 

Support act WWWater were appropriately uplifting, with hints of Grace Jones and analogue synths among the increasingly abstract singing of Belgian Charlotte AdigĂ©ry. The crowd were showing signs of being in the mood for tonight's gig with the enthusiastic response she garnered. 

Young Fathers, Glasgow Barrowlands
Young Fathers when they came on stage could not get started until a cheering, stamping, expectant crowd had quietened down sufficiently to let them get going. Any doubts that they would not manage to take this whole room with them blown away in the first few seconds. With Graham 'G' Hastings, Kayus Bankole and Alloysious Massaquoi out front, largely silhouetted for the night against a white screen, they came together and drifted apart through all the songs, their voices merging and splitting from years of playing together. Tracks from the new album dominated the setlist (Tremolo, Toy and In My View stand out tracks tonight) but there were outings for plenty of stuff from their earlier output merged seamlessly into it. 

'G' almost broke into a smile at a couple of points as he tried to give us a few words, but ultimately stuck to the music. Loud, angry, energetic and something worth listening to. 

The crowd were grinning, cheering, singing along and baying for more - a reminder of how good it can feel to be part of a big Glasgow crowd when they are in the mood, whether at a football match or a concert. Best gig I've been to in a long time? Probably. 

Sunday 11 March 2018

Something old, something new. Weekend Glasgow concert reviews

Live gig review -

  • Lee 'Scratch' Perry. St Lukes, Glasgow 10th March 2018
  • Superorganism. CCA, Glasgow, 11th March 2018
Saturday night's gig was my choice, Sunday night was my brother's. Our musical tastes have some overlap, and some differences. Luckily in Glasgow there is always a variety of musical options and if we had wanted something different again we could have alternatively joined the thousands of people at The Hydro for the "Country To Country" shows. As it was I settled for veteran Jamaican dub reggae musician Lee 'Scratch' Perry on one night, and "BBC Sound of 2018" nominees Superorganism on the other. One night it's all ginger wine and marijuana, the next it's Diet Irn Bru.

Lee 'Scratch' Perry and the Upsetters, St Lukes, Glasgow

Lee 'Scratch' Perry
After the life he has led, first let me say hats off to Lee 'Scratch' Perry for still being here. The 81 year old Jamaican producer largely created the dub style in the 1970s, taking existing reggae tracks, remixing and looping them in the studio to make new tracks. Emphasising the drum and bass, the instrumentals, he was constantly innovating and a whole new musical genre was born. His behaviour can probably be best described as eccentric over the years, from burning down recording studios, communing with aliens and wearing his hat that represents connections to elemental gods. A lifelong belief in the powers of ganja may have a part to play in his personality (his letter to the Japanese Minister of Justice in 1980 in support of Paul McCartney, who had been arrested for allegedly carrying cannabis, maybe best sums up his views on the matter).  

His tight four-piece band introduce themselves as The Upsetters, the name of Lee Perry's old house band, and they kick things off until the man himself wanders on stage after a couple of tracks. Bedecked in an old braided military coat, wearing his trademark hat and dyed red beard he laughs and sings away, treading a fine line between improvisation and rambling gibberish - not always successfully. The setting of St Lukes as a former church seemed to appeal to him, the old church organ behind him on stage, and the words turn to god and Zion at times. 

Lee Scratch Perry and band at St Lukes, Glasgow
When a fan at the front hands him a large bag of a herbal substance early on, he happily sequesters it away with his suitcase on the stage and throughout the night blithely puffs away on his pipe between songs. There will be no smoking ban at a Lee 'Scratch' Perry event. Breaking off for a few sips of the ginger wine that he has brought on stage, he mumbles on for an hour and a half, loosening up as the night goes on and seeming to be enjoying himself as much as the collection of Glaswegians in the audience. As has to be noted that the audience have been providing some of the worst excuses for dancing that I may have ever seen. As he wanders off stage during a riff on Bob Marley's 'Exodus' we realise that is exactly what he has done. Long may he reign.

Lee Scratch Perry in a fug of smoke

Superorganism, Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow

Superorganism are an international collective of eight musicians, fronted by 17 year old Orono Noguchi. Their self-titled debut album has just been released last week. They roll into Glasgow on the back of a lot of hype, but don't appear over-awed by it all. A lot of effort has gone into creating a lo-fi, homemade, psychedelic, indie pop sound that gives the album a happy, upbeat vibe full of technological references and hints of dozens of musical influences. 

Superorganism at the CCA
On stage everything has been carefully put together too, from the co-ordinated raincoats and video backdrops to the dance moves of backing singers Ruby, Soul and B. It's all a stark contrast to Lee Scratch Perry's shambolic fun the previous night. Orono's insouciant demeanour lets them get away with the contrived wackiness. As proper pop bands should, they batter through a set of 3 minute tunes, smile, wave and look happy. Orono tries to curry favour with the local crowd by glugging down a bottle of Irn Bru throughout the show. Where she got it right in choosing a glass bottle, she made the mistake of going for the sugar-free version, greeted by boos from the audience, much to her bewilderment (in one of the few countries in the world where the local fizzy drink outsells Coca-Cola, nobody seems to have pointed out to her that this teeth-coating, caffeine and sugar concoction is best known as a hangover cure, rather than as a late night thirst quencher). She saves the day by somehow finding a bottle of the full-fat Irn Bru to help with the encore.

Back on the Irn Bru
It is hard to tell how much of the music and backing vocals is played live, with various pre-recorded voices and electronic beeps going off left, right and centre, but it doesn't really matter. They look like they are having fun, and we don't want to put a dampener on it. 

Everybody Wants To Be Famous and Something For Your M.I.N.D. are the most memorable songs, but there are plenty of others that show there is variety across the album. The overall sound here is of Bis doing Kandy Pop, filtered through The Monkees whilst somebody nearby plays an 80s video game. As I quite like all of these things, that isn't a criticism.

Their album lasts little over 30 minutes, as does the concert. A couple more tunes wouldn't have hurt, but they don't seem like they are going to release anything upon the world until it has been finely honed and polished. I hope they have the stamina to keep that going.