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Goodbye Mr Mackenzie / Countess of Fife

Glasgow Garage (Wednesday 22nd May 2019)

By • Jun 11th, 2019 • Category: Gig review

What a night!

That could sum up the entire show, but BM is sufficiently moved to try to review this in detail.

The headline notice on the posters for this gig was “GMM play first album ‘Good Deeds and Dirty Rags’ in full”, which was enough of a draw to sell this venue out no problem, and BM spotted a few familiar characters coming out of the shadows, people who had kept the faith with one of the best bands to come out of Scotland, ever – period.

Support act The Countess of Fife, aka Fay Fyffe, with others on drums, bass and guitar, sang and played the keyboards on some rather great death country numbers, like The Cramps crossed with Johnny Cash. Over about six songs FF sparkled, gave good chat and proved that she is certainly no spent force. This project could have legs, although probably not as long-lived as FF’s prized pins, enclosed in leopardskin leggings, as is her wont. She is not growing old gracefully, and BM salutes her!

But tonight was all about the Mackenzies, appearing under this name for the first time in Glasgow since their farewell gig way back in 1995 (okay so there was a last one in Aberdeen in early 96) at the same venue! BM never thought that this would happen again, but of course core members Metcalfe, Wilson and Kelly have been playing around the UK for the past few years under The Filthy Tongues moniker and playing some of GMM’s best known songs..

However, it is said that you can’t buy a name, and under the GMM name they have sold this gig out, with the USP that they will play their extraordinary 1989 debut album in full. There are always a few twists with GMM, as there were back in the 1980s…

Tonight was nostalgic but also a rebirth and a celebration, especially with the reappearance of Rhona Scobie (solid on keyboards) but mainly Big John Duncan, struggling to walk due to long term health issues but smiling from ear to ear when he sat down and started playing his fabulous licks, aided and supplemented by the quite wonderful Revillo Jim Brady.

Starting with the first five tracks of ‘Good Deeds…’ they rocked the Garage to its rafters, and proved to any possible detractors (there were none in this audience) that they still have it, and in spades. Metcalfe, rocking a stovepipe hat worthy of Boy George in his prime, presided over a kind of organised chaos, a maelstrom of noise, during quite complex cuts such as ‘Goodwill City’, surely the best and most searing song ever to be written about Edinburgh ever. “‘Candlestick Park’ was imperious, still stinging in the words, “a nation’s virility”, was ahead of its time, way before Trainspotting and the rest…

The usual suspects Fin and Kelly were on drum and bass, unsung heroes but they played their hearts out. And let us not forget Siel Lein on excellent backing vocals, an established musician herself but a newcomer here – Shirley who?

After the first five songs Martin declared they were going to “mix it up a bit” in terms of the album running order, maybe to get a bit of a set climax towards the end. So we got ‘Dust’, ‘You Generous Thing You’ and the title track and closer of the album, blasting across the room much to Big John’s delight. B-side and dark massacre number ‘Green Turns Red’ nailed us to the floor (Martin at one point described their music, as someone else said, as ‘Munster Rock’) while the home run of ‘Deacon Brodie’, ‘GMM’ and ‘The Rattler’ had this audience bawling out and words, and some of us bawlin’ and greetin’.

Was that the end – no! In a very touching moment Martin paid tribute to the Glasgow fans, who had “taken to us well before Edinburgh” or some such, and gave us an emotional treat for the first encore song. On the original album but left off the reissue, Martin had said to BM last year he did not feel comfortable playing a “song about rape for people to whoop to” but they played ‘Face to Face’ anyway, and the crowd gave this terrible and haunting song the respect it deserved by shutting the fuck up during it – thankyou Glasgow! Well ahead of its time in the ’80s and still very uncomfortable to listen to, it was a gesture of courage and collectiveness with the audience BM thinks, and respect due to band and the punters.

After that we had two class GMM singles of yore, the none darker ‘Blacker Than Black’ and the peak period ‘Now We Are Married’, both of which showed a band at the height of their songwriting and playing powers, and both went down a storm tonight.

This gig was nothing but a triumph and the fact they have announced a Barrowland date in December means they must be liking it a lot.

As BM said several paras ago, a great night, maybe the gig of the year so far – and heritage rock can fuck off, this is something else!

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