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Drive-By Truckers

With ten albums worth of material* to choose from for an evening’s set list, a Drive-by Truckers show always holds a certain mystery and anticipation for those in attendance with regards to what they shall be serenaded with. Being, by far, one of the most solid and consistent recording artists of the last couple of decades** there is certainly a wealth of top dollar material to be heard but will you hear that one tune that you are frantic to hear live?

This, almost bi-yearly, appearance at Glasgow’s ABC is brought to us by the release of new album ‘English Oceans’***, which presents another slice of their trademark Southern rock and soul shenanigans. With another change in line-up since last time on these shores, the band is a mixture of familiar and new faces but all are equally greeted with rapturous applause from what seems like a bustling crowd****.

Hitting out with a couple of tracks from the aforementioned new record, it doesn’t take long for the crowd pleasers to be tendered out, with ‘Gravity’s Gone’ providing the first instance of hopping about*****. The remainder of the set delivers highlights from throughout their career going as far back as their first two, lesser known, albums showcasing tracks ‘Uncle Frank’ and the fabulous ’18 Wheels of Love’****** which delighted pockets of liquored up folk within the mass.

The real elation for most though kicked in for the closing tracks of the main set from breakthrough albums ‘Southern Rock Opera’ and ‘Decoration Day’. The sumptuous tale of the feud between Lynyrd Skynyrd and Neil Young, ‘Ronnie & Neil’ was a mighty ruckus of a tune which had the audience bellowing along, whilst closer ‘Hell No I Ain’t Happy’ proved a nice, and ironic, way to end the set as there wasn’t a frown to be seen.

With the traditional ‘Let There Be Rock’ heralding the close of the evening, not before hearing new track ‘Grand Canyon’ which fit in nicely with the more weathered material, the evening was at an end. It took a fair few minutes for all present to leave as the round of applause that bid farewell to these performers seemed to be undying. It’s a testament to the Drive-By-Truckers professional uninhibitedness that keeps the crowds coming year after year******* with the feeling that the next show may just be their best yet.

 

*I ain’t counting live albums, B-side collections, greatest hits, or solo material. Just so you know.

**At least…

***What seems like a wee bit of a retreat to the position that they’re used to, instead of the Soul vibe of previous record ‘Go-Go Boots’.

****Considering how difficult it was to get a beer at points I’m gonna guess that it was.

*****Cue several spillages of pints held aloft in the air.

******Including myself.

*******This would happen to be my ninth visit.

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BillCallahan_byHanlyBanks

Well it certainly is cosy down in Glasgow’s ABC for the concluding weekend of Celtic Connections which presents Bill Callahan and backing band to this capacity crowd. The lights are out, the bars are closed* and the band arrive onstage who all seats except for the namesake towering above them standing in the middle of the stage on an elevated pedestal**.

Although not widely known outside of ‘indie’ circles, Bill Callahan has built up quite the following over the years by sticking to whatever he wants to do, allowing people to take notice through their own will. Judging from those throngs of folk in attendance tonight this approach certainly seems to have worked for the man!

Opening with the first track ‘The Sing’ from ‘Dream River’, this seemed to forecast how the remainder of the evening would go as the majority of the set consisted of tracks from said album. Which the crowd seemed to deem acceptable with their polite ovations though it wasn’t until ‘Dress Sexy for My Funeral’**** from Callahan’s previous project Smog that he was met with an elevated display of audience appreciation.

At points the audience were so enamoured by Callahan’s baritone delivery that a whisper would came across as a shout. With little audience interaction except for the occasional sardonic banter which proved to be a highlight for me in what would have otherwise of been a sombre and serious evening***.

On the whole this was sober but soothing gig on the whole but with the intimacy of the show proving to be an odd counterpart to the size of the venue that it was taking place in. Not exactly a rousing Saturday night and not particularly mind blowing but still the man is good at what he does, just maybe not what I’m into. One man’s coffee is another man’s whisky after all*****….

*at the insistence of the man himself which led to bewilderment and resentment from more than one member of the audience.

**Soapbox anyone?

***It didn’t exactly lead to the most uproarious Saturday night but it’s the little things.

****The highlight of the night.

*****That’s if you got served before they closed the bar of course…

No school like the old school

No school like the old school

“I know my place and you should know yours!” retorted John Lydon, mainstay and head honcho, of Public Image Ltd, to a member of the audience who was proving to be a nuisance to those around him. Surprisingly the man obliged displaying the respect that Mr Lydon still holds amongst those in attendance and this evenings show more than adequately proved why that is.

Despite looking like a darts player who has been on a heavy session, somehow the former Johnny Rotten was still the epitome of cool. The snarl was in play* but there now with a more operatic demeanour in his command of the stage and an authentic honesty to his usual flair of performance. Which for a man that so much bullshit seems to envelop (a good portion of it his own doing to be fair) is marvellous to see in itself.

Thankfully, there is more to this than the man himself, P.I.L. being made up with Lu Edmonds on guitar, Scott Firth on bass and Bruce Smith on drums are able to create the bombastic sparkle and drag that these songs require, and they don’t waste time in doing so. Things began with an almost teasing start with ‘Deeper Water’ from the new album ‘This is PIL’, however those that were worried about this evening being a showcase of new material didn’t not have long to wait for their foot to enter their mouths.

The groove laden ‘Albatross’ was up next leading to a crowd hypnotised by Lydon’s vocal caricatures for nigh on 10 minutes. After which they erupted into a jubilant rendition of ‘This is not a Love Song’ which led to the first bout of activity from the audience, with all in attendance dancing away under the renowned giant mirrorball of the venue**.

After this initial flurry of songs it was hard to imagine how P.I.L. would be able to top such a strong start to the show. As we were treated to a catalogue of tunes from throughout their career with anthem-like ‘Warrior’*** proving to be another highlight, the band finished up with two choice songs from the aforementioned new album; ‘Out of the Woods’ and ‘One Drop’. They left the stage to uninhibited adulation but there was nothing close to touching the strong start to the evening.

As P.I.L. returned to the stage for the encore it certainly seemed like they left the best till last as they stormed into a glorious and snotty version of ‘Public Image’ where the entire middle section of the floor was awash with flinging bodies surfing over their counterparts and really making the security at the front work for their money. What followed was a bewitching execution of ‘Rise’**** which had the house lights on for a good portion and what seemed like the whole audience singing in unison during the chorus.

And that was it, a few ups and downs throughout but bookended to the highest degree with all truly believing that Public Image Ltd are no nostalgia trip, they can still affect you where it counts.

*Of course…

**Seriously, it’s fucking huge.

***I have no idea why I like that song, my head tells me it’s no very good but still…

****Bloody stunning!

Has it really been 20 years... fuck.

Has it really been 20 years… fuck.

So the show that has officially made me feel old, the 20th anniversary of the Breeders ‘Last Splash’, and to celebrate the Breeders are playing the Glasgow ABC*. As I have never been to a gig where the whole purpose of which was to play the album in its entirety, I am not sure what to expect. Except to hear that album in its entirety… in order, which is what we got but can a gig be special when you more a less know what is going to occur?**

The nae frills stage illustrates that tonight is going to be about the tunes and that is what the audience are here to see/hear***. The Deals & Co, coming onstage to an uproar of applause, head straight into ‘New Year’ before immediately progressing into the big hit ‘Cannonball’ which leads to one of the many flourishes of dancing reactions from the crowd this evening****.

Really, 20 years... fuck.

Really, 20 years… fuck.

Highlights of the set seem to very much depend on each individual in attendance as we all know what is coming but it’s just a case of playing the waiting game on hearing that particular track. However, everyone seems to be in glee like agreement during ‘Flipside’ and a particularly heavenly rendition of ‘Divine Hammer’ which has everyone plastered with a smile on their face*****.

As the closing of ‘Roi (reprise)’ signals the end of the main set, not one person budges, expectant and desperate for more despite ‘Last Splash’ being played in full. Their patience and dedication is duly rewarded as the band saunters on stage and proceeds to head into a cover of American Lo-Fi legends Guided by Voices****** ‘Shocker in Gloomtown’. Once this is done we are all treated to two encores worth of ‘Pod’ and ‘Safari EP’ tracks which just continues the already jubilant vibe created, with ‘Don’t Call Home’ providing a memorable but sombre finishing number.

Although this may have been just a glorified nostalgia trip for all in attendance and the band themselves… who gives a shit! Those tracks I still frequently listen to, it was great hearing it live, especially by the original incarnation of the band, and everyone seemed to have a big smile on their face. What more can you ask for?

*Amongst other places.

**Do I get extra credit for pointing out the bloody obvious?

**Lets read on…

***Dare I say it is quite nice to get the ‘hit’ out of the way.

****Well at least I did, grinning from cheek to cheek I must have looked like an idiot.

*****All hail the Guided by Voices.

Ted Leo

On my second expedition to Glasgow in a week for the punk music selection offered by the Celtic Connections festival, I found myself running to Glasgow’s ABC venue from the train station. This was due to receiving the knowledge that Ted Leo* would be on at a sharp 7.30pm. Luckily due to a recent bout of health consciousness prompting some running on my part prior to today, I entered the auditorium as the first song of Ted Leo’s set was finishing.

Getting myself to the front of the stage proved to be no great achievement as the audience was meagrely populated at this early hour**. Despite appearing with a lack of his backing band the Pharmacists, Ted Leo still had all the impact that I expected as he remained an enthralling performer despite flying solo on a rather large stage. He treated the audience early to his ode to Glasgow ‘A Bottle of Buckie’ followed by ‘Bottled in Cork’*** from his last release ‘the Brutalist Bricks’. As a gift to those who arrived early; our headliner Aimee Mann joined Ted on stage to perform a couple of songs from an untitled EP that they have collaborated on. A bit more country influenced than usually expected from Mr Leo, it was an interesting detour in the set with ‘The Gambler’ proving to be a highlight of the whole evening. Previous to Aimee Mann joining our support act, an in the know member of the audience shouted a polite request for the song ‘Timorous Me’ which was initially refused due to limited time. Upon pondering his response before heading into the next song, Ted Leo returned to address the audience member and stated that his request would be the song that finished his set which was the case****. A real treat for those that got there in time, and judging by the decibel level of applause I was not alone in discerning that.

Next up in our speckled evening of entertainment was Amelia Curran, who presented what would be more in line with the music presented usually, be Celtic Connections. For the next half an hour or so we were plied with whiskey soaked tales of love, and with the announcement mid-way through that we were hitting the ballads, the loss of that very love. Everything was well written, impeccably (if a little endearingly shyly) performed and Ms Curran was a charismatic character. However it just didn’t grab me wholly and in such an over populated bare bones market of singer songwriters’ oot there I would say that being grabbed was fairly essential*****.

Aimee Mann

Now for the closure of our adventure in Glasgow, Aimee Mann & band****** arrived on the platform. Despite the relatively low keyness of her music, Aimee Mann certainly has presence and was the focal point throughout the set. After the obligatory opening of relatively oldies, Mann forewarns the inclusion of new material from this point on. She admits this is a precarious move as explained by an anecdote involving her brother stating that no one goes to a gig to hear the new material*******. Ironically, things really come alive when she plays her biggest hits ‘Save Me’ and ‘Wise Up’ from the Magnolia soundtrack followed by a pleasant cover of ‘One is the Loneliest Number’. This more or less sets the template for the rest of the show, a solid mixture of old and new, finishing up with ‘It’s
Not Safe’
. Returning for an encore that ended the evening with ‘4th of July’, but not before Ted Leo re-joined her onstage for some Thin Lizzy noodling. To come clean, I wasn’t too au fait on Aimee Mann’s back catalogue, but I had read that she was a rather stand offish and cold artist. I did not get that from her this evening. I was entertained throughout and found that when she really comes alive is when things get really quiet.

*The main reason that I was going to this show.

**By gig standards anyway.

***Are we all drunk or something…?

****Jolly nice if you ask me.

*****Even Bon Iver went all E-Street on us.

******Do you ever get the fear when you see a band that looks like they have just stepped out of that move ‘Almost Famous’?

*******Depends on the artist I suppose…