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Electric Frog (2)

Glasgow SWG3 (Sunday 11th September)

By • Sep 14th, 2011 • Category: Gig review

As a previous review has pointed out, this venue is in a fairly obscure part of the West End (Yorkhill Middle Of Nowhere), formerly Clydeside Galvanisers judging by the signs, alongside and under the main Glasgow to Partick railway and accessible from the end of Kelvinhaugh St.
Electric Frog announced a full roster of live acts as part of the second day of the September festival after an abortive attempt to do the same thing a couple of months ago was curtailed by building works. The revamped line-up is however far more impressive, bringing an unexpected September bonus of several bands gigging this year but not expected in Glasgow this month until, well, today…

The one-off nature of the event drew a sizeable crowd and the main stage was an outdoor yard covered by a temporary awning, giving reasonable but not ideal views. I didn’t see too much of the upstairs room (which has hosted Sons and Daughters recently and I think The Rapture quite soon) and so will not be reviewing previous Barrowland headliners The Orb who topped the bill inside tonight. A lot of effort had been made to get food, drink etc. flowing although draught beer ran out very quickly and the pizzas and hotdogs drew lengthy queues – toilets were not a problem though.

Arriving in the middle of Errors‘ set, the sound mix was pretty good and the songs (some from forthcoming new album I think) sounded good, some New Order influences there I think – and a pretty packed space, quite cosy given the wind and rain outside.

Next on was The Fall – announced as part of the previous cancelled bill but now appearing, in the flesh – it’s been a while since they have played anything other than headline shows in Scotland (Indian Summer 1 around five years ago, I think). The last couple of visits to Glasgow have involved dates at the Renfrew Ferry, a good venue for them, and now, playing to a non-partisan crowd, this would be interesting. They came on only very slightly late, and, well how do you describe a Fall gig – pretty unique really.

It’s getting hard to describe The Fall in 2011 without getting all David Attenborough on you. I think at this stage people either get it or they don’t – and I’m not going to criticise people who don’t, but let’s get a few things straight. Of all the post punk acts there is not a single one which has been so prolific, consistent but challenging, year after year. While “seminal” acts such as Magazine and PIL reform and tour the greatest hits, The Fall (or Mark E Smith and whoever is “employed” by him) continue to push new material, album releases most years (sometimes more than one) every year since the late 70’s.

Of course the years have not been kind and one could say there is an element of pantomime here, Mark looking well turned-out but distracted, apparently blinded by the lights and also fiddling with a wee electronic device (dictaphone maybe) which when pressed to the mike makes no apparent difference to the vocal effects. A man who should now be rightfully collecting his pension but choosing instead to play to Glaswegians on a Sunday afternoon,he is allowed his eccentricities by his girlfriend on keyboards (only him and Macca then) and the current three “lads”, fiddling with the sound levels and generally being an old git. After letting her sign one number pretty much in its entirety, he then nicks her mike (cue much “what’s he like, isn’t ‘ee awful” mugging to the crowd from her). The sound may not be the full monty you can expect at a Fall headline gig but it’s pretty sharp and the band are pretty tight. Several songs from the forthcoming album, several from the previous one, plus the usual cover ‘White Lightning’ and the selected classic (tonight it’s ‘Psychik Dancehall’). Mark’s voice, at times hectoring and at times trying to be tender, is a curious instrument but the performance, as usual, is genuinely arresting. The moment when he segues ‘Cowboy George’ into ‘Bury’ is just fantastic. I don’t think the “national treasure” thing is really appropriate but as he shambles away from the back of the stage I can only think that we are in the presence of a true legend, and I don’t say that lightly. A coup indeed for Electric Frog.

After more rain and beers, Wild Beasts take to the stage. Having seen them at Oran Mor a few months ago, I’d say this is a more restrained performance but they play their best material (mainly from Two Dancers, the second LP) – the audience are reasonably up for it but during the quieter numbers there is too much talking which tends to happen when a lot of the audience haven’t come specifically to see the band on stage at the time. The band clearly relish a chance to play in Glasgow, saying they are “redressing the balance” of not playing enough here (well that’s three gigs in two years now, not too bad). The sublime ‘Hooting and Howling’ and the rest were given the full treatment and they might have converted a few hardcore post-rockers today to their romantic ponderings and falsetto yelps, who knows?

Headlines Mogwai have also not played Glasgow much in recent years but after a warm-up in Stereo late last year, a one-off at the Grand Ol’ Opry (see previous Betty review) and a forthcoming booking at the Barrowland for December, this gig was an unexpected treat. Sandwiched between European festivals and other lengthy promotional tours for the current album, some heavy duty sound-checking included the welcome re-appearance of Luke Sutherland soundchecking his own violin (he obviously didn’t trust the road crew!).

Mogwai were loud and proud tonight, playing pretty much their best songs past and present, Stuart Brathwaite asking several times “are you ok, how are you doing?” before launching into another assault on the years. As previously, it’s equally Barry Burns’ piano-driven numbers as much as the guitar-driven stuff which gives the best moments. ‘Autorock’ in particular is majestic, and the more recent ‘Rano Pano’ and ‘Mexican Grand Prix’ are visceral and mesmerising by turns, ‘Hunted by a Freak’ offering its usual swirling beauty . Unfortunately I had to leave a couple of numbers from the end but by my reckoning Mogwai enjoyed the one-off nature of this event and it showed in some fantastic versions of their best songs.

Absolute credit goes to Electric Frog for booking such a diverse bill and taking that risk, Betty salutes you.

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