To headline at Glasgow’s ABC almost a year to the day since the emotional farewell gig by former band Arab Strap is testament to the brilliance of Malcolm Middleton’s catalogue of solo work.
However it now seems that he is starting to embrace the fact that he does write fantastic songs, no matter that the subject of them is a self-deprecating look at his self. The gig tonight threatens to be overshadowed by the tumbling snowball of publicity surrounding his attempts to reach the Xmas number 1 spot with his forthcoming single ‘We’re All Going To Die’. It is being heavily played by Radio 1 – particularly by Colin Murray who seems to have taken it on as some kind of personal crusade – and is being touted as a retaliation to the usual X factor tripe served up at this time of year,.
Malcolm,it appears, is non plussed by the attention and is almost a little coy as he takes to the stage.
As well as the pounding opener ‘Break My Heart’ we are treated to a couple of new songs, one memorable one which could be called ‘Blue Plastic Bags’ containing lyrics like “Staying in is the new going out” and something about going home with a blue plastic bag full of fags, beer and Jacobs Creek, which seems to resonate with a large section of the crowd. A crowd which, although a little static during songs, give wildly appreciative responses to all the songs including a little throng of “drunk guys from Falkirk” who Malcolm thanks later on in the set. Having only seen him in small venues previously, it is a real treat to hear some of my favourite songs performed with a superb band and through the kind of sound system they deserve including ‘Loneliness Shines’ which is a standout of the set. Admittedly, it is a little disappointing not to hear more from the ‘5:14 Fluoxytine Seagull Alcohol John Nicotine’ album and there are more than a few shouts for ‘Speed on the M9’ but it seems MM is looking to the future and that his fans will need to move on as well. We do get the best from ‘Into The Woods’ including a massive (and loud!) airing of ‘No Modest Bear’and a quiet acoustic ‘Burst Noel’ which segues into a little bit of ‘Silent Night’ before being abruptly cut off with a sarcastic “Aye right!”
Malcolm is of course duty bound to play the new single which gets a rousing reception but needs no introduction such is its current notoriety. The rest of the set consists of songs from one of this year’s best albums: ‘A Brighter Beat’ which features the enigmatic Jenny Reeve on many of the songs. Reeve’s vocals are fantastic and seem to marry perfectly with Middletons especially on ‘Fight Like The Night’ which sounds absolutely incredible as does the mickey taking ‘Superhero Songwriters’ which takes the gig soaring to new heights… and who could forget title track ‘A Brighter Beat’ which seems to get the biggest cheer of the night.
As the gig draws to a close Malcolm thanks the crowd for choosing his gig over the others on offer that night in Glasgow: “Did no one fancy seeing Hard Fi?” Cue a chorus of boos. “What about CSS?” A few cheers. “War of the worlds?” Silence… which seems to make him laugh – I think. So as the set finishes with ‘A HappY Medium’ – which includes the line “Woke up again today, realised I hate myself, my face is a disease” – it appears MM will have to get used to a whole lot more people finding out about his insecurities.