Wha’s like us? Gey few, and they’re a’ at home watching the X-factor.
Or so the press would have you believe – the criticism of the Final Fling has been so vociferous that journalists attending the event at the SECC and Armadillo have been greeted with a “nae luck” from those choosing the delights of Simon Cowell (more on him later) over what is, you’d think, a decent enough pick’n’mix of Scottish music past and present.
There are flaws of course, but these are on the organisational level rather than the curious perception that we’re attending some sort of SNP rally. Indeed, it was the fact that the event wasn’t an immediate sellout led to the creation of ‘roving’ tickets allowing some of the audience to move between the three halls. More on that later too.
With so many bands playing it’s an early start and for some the biggest problem will be making it in time for Twin Atlantic. Blink and you’d miss their three songs, and the considerable set of T-shirted fans will have met their set with pride at their appearance on a big stage, and disappointment at the fact they’re off before the hall has really filled up.
The night promises surprises – first person we spot in the crowd is Pictish Trail who tips us off a King Creosote’s guest slot – more of that later – and there’s also an unexpected bonus.
The Law weren’t as bad as feared.
Ok, going in with low expectations, but while the Dundee act are still basically a mix of Oasis chords and the odd TFC-alike melody, they at least command the stage and work the big arena, just like the brothers Gallagher but with confidence rather than arrogance. There’s even a nod to punk in their closing number.
Codeine Velvet Club are – as surely everyone knows – the side project of the one out of the Fratellis with the hair. Less blatant at times than his usual songwriting, they’re an odd mix – brass adds to a big and slightly distorted live sound while the songs at times have an almost Bacharach quality, never going for the obvious hook while at the same time drawing on what sounds like a plethora of 60s tunes for inspiration. By way of contrast, there’s ‘Little Sisters’ which is basically a big dumb Fratellis chorus on stilts. Not their high point, but with only three or four songs per act, it’s hard to judge, or even really get into.
There lies part of the problem – with 12 acts to see in six hours (and Jim Gellatly to squeeze in to introduce the acts), there’s not much time for sets or changeovers So it’s a quick dash to the Armadillo where, it turns out, press are assigned a small row of sets on the nosebleed-inducing third floor.
And Hue and Cry on the stage to boot. Like many acts in the Armadillo, they made their names in the 80s, when the Scottish accent was the almost exclusive domain of the folkies, so Pat Kane’s Scots burr on ‘Green Grow The Rashes’ is a pleasant surprise. Although ‘Looking For Linda’ reverts to its original mid-Atlantic drawl.
The Twilight Sad seem to be a band made for arena shows. And I say that, listening as I do through battle-scarred eardrums from their shows in tiny toilet venues. Tonight, in the vast and happily filling hall, they crank it up but still leave ears intact, and give us – and the audience members unfamiliar with their work – the chance to hear what brilliant ears *they* have for a hook. WIth James’ in a new severe haorcut it seems like the band have reinvented themselves, perhaps from time spent touring, and there’s a confidence and intensity that perhaps wasn’t there before. ’And She Would Darken The Memory’ bursts through in a – for them – controlled explosion of sound.
Despite the serious overrunning of the sets, The Dykeenies still opt for a ridiculously long intro – which cynics suggest may be because they’re unable to fill 20 minutes. Happily, another surprise, as while they’re not exactly groundbreaking – and perhaps more on the bill due to their releases on the promoters inhouse record label – their punk pop is perky enough.
Another trek to the dizzying heights of the Clyde Auditorium (that’s the Armadillo to you) and – as far as we can tell – the Bluebells have indeed co-opted King Creosote to play accordian. Other members are unclear – we assume that’s Ken McCluskey on vocals, and I believe Bobby Bluebell is on guitar, though in past times we’d have been able to see his hair from Mars never mind the back of Tier 3. Lawrence Donegan on Craig Gannon? Your guess is as good as mine. There’s a take on ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ as their contribution to the Celtic diaspora, and then, KC’s reward for his ‘Best Newcomer’ award at the previous night’s Tartan Clefs is to sing the first verse of ‘Kath’ before the band kick in. We skedaddle as John McCusker – in for Bobby Valenino for some reason – leads them, and the entire audience, off for ‘Young At Heart’.
‘Course, the reason that we’re hotfooting it down 10 flights of stairs is to catch King Creosote onstage in Hall 2, but as we’ve left him in the Armadillo… a check of the running order, fast becoming as effective as the Declaration of Arbroath, suggests that it should actually be The Vaselines up next. And indeed, they’re just getting started as we arrive. ‘Molly’s Lips’ and and ‘Son of a Gun’ see some recognition among the otherwise baffled hordes perhaps expecting Belle and Sebastian onstage. But with Eugene and Frances rolling back the years (Mr Kelly even clad in stripey indie t-shirt) it’s a joy to see them playing to a Nirvana-sized auditorium. Perhaps mindful of their truncated set, they end with an uber-extended ‘Think You’re A Man’ with Stevie Jackson living the rock guitar dream usually unfulfilled with the day job.
Some ridicule at my quick departure to catch Midge Ure, but the thing about the former Ultravox mainman is the sheer variety of songs he may have to draw from. We arrive just in time for ‘Vienna’ – acoustic but still powerful, and then an elborate guitar intro which disguises ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’. But with his massive back catalogue, what to round off? PVC2, Rich Kids, Visage, perhaps even one of his Slik number ones? Well, no, it’s a different hit – ‘Feed The World’. Gets earlier every year…
For some inexplicable reason pangs of hunger strike at this point so it’s a trip to the Loch Fyne food stall, the veggie stovies doing the job nicely before King Creosote. He’s not doing the hits it seems, a brooding ‘Camels Swapped For Wives’ the high point of another short set.
The grab bag setup means we are already just ‘sampling’ the acts, and in a whisky rather than a Fairlight sense. Dougle Maclean might approve of that analogy so hopefully we can be forgiven for only taking in a couple of songs in the Lomond Suite. With ‘Caledonia’ either legendary or slightly hackneyed now, it’s shame that this truly great songwriter may see his other work overlooked. But ‘Talking With My Father’ is a fantastic piece of songwriting and one which rather than being pigeonholed as ‘traditional’ could easily fit in the Hall 2 indie lineup.
Although his use of ‘audience participation’ might get the lager glasses flying, unlikely in the more sedate seated ‘Lounge’.
No such niceties from Idlewild. Still touting their ‘rock’ side, there’s no temptation to bring a folksy element to proceedings to their set. ‘Roseaibity’ is just one of seven or so songs they rattle through in a set short on chat and heavy on riffs, the band sounding much better than their recent Edinburgh show.
Richard Jobson is however a man who can talk for his country, and in this case it’s very much Scotland. One for the stay-at-homes perhaps, his opening offer, following a rocking ‘Of One Skin’, is “Simon Cowell’s a wanker” and the band, playing their first Glasgow show in decades, get the largely 40-something audience recreating their triumphant Apollo gigs. The singer is as ever energetic, physically he floats like Muhummad Ali. And stings like Robin Cook – analysing his own lyrics he has established that ‘Yankee Dollar’ (and ‘Into The Valley’) are about young men with no future forced to join the army and “sent to places they shouldn’t be”. High point may however be ‘Woman In Winter’ which with gospel choir backing is a stirring blend of world music and good old-fashioned Scottish punk.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, itm’s “headliners” – over the years the accepted leading force in Scottish music at least on the Homecoming Final Fling lineup – are Bellshill’s finest. No, not Sheena Easton, who’s sadly unavailable. Instead, and braving what are rightfully her liquid missiles, Teenage Fanclub, who could have done with a bit of Skids-style punk rock in their set – that is, if they cared about currying favour with the crowd. However, it’s to their credit that they stick to their game plan with ‘Planets’ about as close as they get to rocking out. “This is our take on contemporary music – it’s 25 minutes long and really slow!” Norman offers before picking up the pace with ‘Sparky’s Dream’. There are other acts to come as the evening draws to a close, but an extended version of ‘Everything Flows’ with Jim McCulloch adding to the noise factor is probably the best way we can celebrate Scottish music.
Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.