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The Pop Group / Sexual Objects

Glasgow ABC2 (Saturday 18th January)

By • Jan 20th, 2014 • Category: Gig review

The words “first Glasgow gig in 33 years” can mean a number of things, good or bad….but it was certainly true.

Allegedly seminal post-punk, agit-funk (insert cliche here) combo The Pop Group have been doing the festival circuit for the last few years after deciding to play together again around 2010. They were first posted missing in action around 1982 after a couple of seminal (hello again) albums that critics frothed over but the public didn’t exactly flock to.

Betty has had some previous with former (and now again current) lead singer Mark Stewart, having witnessed a full-on solo performance a few years ago at King Tut’s, promoting his at-the-time new album, a blistering set mixed live by Adrian Sherwood no less, and proof that there was certainly life in the old dog yet…

So Celtic Connections (via Creeping Bent) got an exclusive, promoted as an ABC1 gig but, surprise surprise, ended up at ABC2 despite selling over 700 tickets (mine was 701) – was that perchance because ABC wanted to avoid the hassle of having to have all these old music audience gits upstairs and then having to chuck them out in time for the club night opening? I have to say that I’d been looking forward to hearing both groups on a big stage and big sound system, but as it was, the sound was fine in ABC2 and it ended up more of a sweaty club night than the half empty big stage that it might have been; however, an explanation from management might have been nice…

Things always start brutally early at ABC on a Fri or Sat night as they want the building cleared of music attendees by 10pm, so the fact the support was already onstage when I arrived at 7.30pm did not surprise me.

And it was Sexual Objects, latest incarnation of Davy Henderson and co, been going a few years now and have witnessed them a couple of times supporting, and playing as backing, to Vic Goddard. There was some comment in the press that Creeping Bent founder Douglas McIntyre, here tonight playing guitar with the SOs, had a hand in bringing The Pop Group to Glasgow for this date, so respect due. When Betty arrived they were just sparking up Win’s ‘You’ve Got the Power’, known to most as “that McEvans advert song from the 80s”, a groovy little tune and I suppose the closest that Davey and his cohorts have ever got to a real hit. Other numbers were a variety of garage-rock, Velvets-esque strumming and more muscular work-outs, led by some occasionally off-kilter singing and plenty of attitude from a band that can pack a punch when they want to. There was talk from Davey of a “Noo El Pee” but I’m not really sure what they are aiming for these days; however they were having fun and sounded good, for the most part.

The main attraction was preceded by the most bizarre warm-up tracks I’ve heard in a while, madrigals I think… They took the stage haphazardly, drummer on first then vanished backstage, last minute pee perhaps. This was the original line-up, (Stewart on vocals, Gareth Sager on guitar, Dan Catsis on bass and Bruce Smith on drums) plus additional youthful guitarist – lead singer Mark Stewart does projust a big presence at the front, he’s a big guy, with a permanently worried expression and wearing what looked like a fishing-orientated body warmer, after he’s removed his jacket. Lot of pockets for keeping things, like mouth organs and whistles, as it turns out…

And what a racket they made, it’s almost impossible to describe…

Thinking about it, and what anyone reading this might have heard (and there’s so much “vintage” rock on BBC4 these days), probably closest to PiL in the Metal Box period, some seriously reggae-influenced bass, scything guitar and a vocal howl (with dubbed reverb). But TPG are seriously eccentric, Stewart pacing the stage like a bear with a sore head, before screaming another punishing line at the audience. And it is punishing…”We are all prostitutes” is a nice complementary opening shot, before ‘Thief of Fire’, ‘Blind Faith’ (played I think for the first time in a long time tonight and dedicated to Ian Curtis), before “our first single” ‘She Is Beyond Good and Evil’ from 1978.

Mark fairly spat out the lyrics despite having to read them from sheets in plastic sleeves, but did seem to relax into it after a few songs and traded banter with the crowd a bit (“the drummer’s wearing sunglasses, of course he can’t see etc.”)

As the 11 song set progressed some of the distonal chords became a bit more mainstream, ‘Where There’s A Will” sounding a bit like Patti Smith’s ‘People have the Power’, i.e. a bit too obvious, and closing number ‘We Are Time’ was actually beginning to remind me of ‘You’ve Got The Power’ – more Nile Rodgers than Keith Levine, if you will. After hopes of a second encore were dashed (it was 10.15 after all, we’ve got a club to run here later tonight and drunk young people to fleece) the audience retired mostly satisfied with mid-January given a bit of a kick up the arse.

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