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Looper

Seven Song Club @ Glasgow Tron Theatre (Friday 30th August)

By • Sep 5th, 2018 • Category: gig reviews

The Seven Songs Club, it turns out, does what it does on the poster. So we’re well warned that Looper, playing their first show in 16 years, may not exactly be planning a long set.

Our hopes are buoyed in a way, by the opening act. “Impenetrable cowboy jazz” is what the Wholly Cats offer, but the quartet immediately break the rules by announcing they have “no songs”. Instead we get half-a-dozen instrumentals – but what instrumentals.

With titles like ‘Stomping At The Savoy’ and ‘Panhandle Rag’ their set is in the best traditions of Reinhardt if not Grappelli – the foursome employ mazy guitar licks set to thunking double bass, precise brushed drums, and perhaps unexpectedly the pedal steel guitar adding shimmering calm to the frenetic tunes. We get 7 (I think) tracks, a mix of originals and tunes written by people with names like Speedy West.

The band are well received by a very appreciate audience, but they are a mere warm-up for the main event – former Belle and Sebastian man Stuart David, plus friends – who turn out to be just Scott Twynholm on upright piano. There’s no sign of Ronnie Black who, we’re advised, considers himself too old for music despite being seven years David’s junior, while Karn David is present but deciding that the stripped-back set would be best served without visuals.

Kicking off with a delicate ‘These Things’ the short collection is largely drawn from more recent works including ‘Oh, Skinny Legs’, from 2015’s ‘comeback’ release ‘Offgrid:Offline’ – in fact, next up is that album’s title track, but the tale of Elliot’s mysterious move from the city set to as a mash-up with ‘Mondo ’77’, Looper’s perhaps most famous work reimagined as a neoclassical piece, with David’s hushed narration perfectly backed by Twynholm’s impressive keyboard work.

Stuart David’s skills as a storyteller are well-known – most famously perhaps for ‘Spaceboy Dream’ on ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’ and of course his sterling work as author of crime novels and his invention of Peacock Johnson. However, the disbelief that Mute Records is 40 years old is only topped by the choice of song that label supremo Daniel Miller has asked Looper and various stablemates to record. But David hushes the audience as they perform, and record John Cage’s 4’33”.

Again, the audience are impeccably behaved, though a few may be able to hear coughs and shuffles as the surprisingly long classical classic wears on. Look out for that, presumably on a vinyl compilation, in a shop near you soon.

Only half as old as the label is ‘Winter Wooskie’ the b-side to ‘Legal Man’, and it’s as close as we get to a reference to the songwriting David undertook for his former band, although ‘Images of the Shipwreck’ could have sat happily alongside ‘Spaceboy Dream’, as Twynholm again mashes up the spoken word piece, this time with Ryuichi Sakamoto’s ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’.

And that’s six songs… sorry, seven including the John Cage anthem, so we’re done.

Happily, the duo are coaxed back and do ‘Impossible Things’ – we’re back to debut album ‘Up A Tree’ but the scratching and typewriter percussion replaced with a Twynholm tune. The keyboard player will be best-known to some as a member of Hoboken, but another project, Metrovavan, provides ‘Red Hose Swing Music’ as backing for another classic Looper tune.

We’re treated to another oldie, ‘Burning Flies’, to complete a short but very sweet set, the duo confessing to being under-rehearsed for these encores, but they’re delivered perfectly and in a unique, intimate stripped-back form, for a very privileged audience. Hopefully it’ll not be another 16 years before Looper are back again.

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