Three class acts for 12 quid – have to say that on the way to this gig BM passed The O2 Academy where Soft Cell were on at 60 quid a pop. Can’t blame them for cashing in on their fame but ever had the feeling you’ve been cheated? Seem to recall seeing them for less than half that price less than 10 years ago, yes the costs of touring have risen at a rate greater than inflation but no one feels like having their loyalty exploited, do they?
Anyway, it was up to the Hug (still Glasgow’s best-smelling venue thanks to the legions of hipsters consuming their vegan dinners, actually who the fuck are these people? Certainly very little crossover with tonight’s grizzled audience down the stairs!
First up is Kamura Obscura, aka Atsuko Kamura, formerly one half of The Frank Chickens (originally from Japan but resident in the UK for quite some time now), Peel favourites and veterans of many a Fall and Billy Bragg support slot. KO normally performs these days with a violinist but they were otherwise indisposed, or didn’t fancy the trip to Scotland. Either way, KO gave us a half hour of atmospheric soundscapes performed on synth, loops, computer, vocals and anything else which she had to hand. It was interesting and absorbing, until the audience was jolted somewhat by her forthcoming single ‘Nina Bargain’, which is simply a massive electro-disco banger which would put Dua Lipa to shame. It is groovy, eccentric and a total stormer, enough said!
So you wait four years for signs of life in Glasgow from former Fall members and then like the buses, they come two at a time. So after last Saturday’s deafening gig by Imperial Wax, The Blue Orchids took to the stage, fronted by Martin Bramah, who served his national Fall service as a founding member many moons ago. Apart from not realising until yesterday that The Blue Orchids were essentially his band, BM also completely forgot that this band had a life before MB’s time in The Gruppe, so when they pulled out the ancient track ‘Work’ BM had to ask, and was reliably informed by Douglas McIntyre (mainman of The Creeping Bent Organisation and Sexual Objects guitarist, among many other things) standing beside, that yes it was indeed an old Blue Orchids track – well history be damned!
Aside from this, the five piece Blue Orchids were very tight indeed, deploying crafty keyboards, an energetic drummer, bassist and guitarist to back Brannah’s Gretch- powered riffs and vocals, which made for a great sound, and nary an effects pedal betwixt them… There was at least one track, the rest culled from various recent albums, but as you may have guessed BM has not really followed this band in recent years – she will be now, great live set.
That would actually have been enough for one night, but of course we then had the main attraction, playing north of the border for the umpteenth time in the past six or seven years, The Nightingales are fronted by the singular and uncompromising Robert Lloyd, straight outta Birmingham and maybe having a slightly raised profile in the last wee while due to the Stuart Lee documentary/love-in, which, to be fair, is an affectionate and very funny portrait of men growing old not very gracefully.
The band currently comprise Lloyd on lead vocals, the powerhouse that is Fliss Kitson on drums, plus bass player and guitarist, all relatively recent, given that Robert has been doing this since the late 70s. What we got was a solid hour of music, one track after another, pretty much no gaps, so they fitted a good 15 or 16 tracks in, pretty much all from the last 10 years. RL stalked the stage and crooned, spat and intoned his way through the set while the band played as if there was no tomorrow.
It has to be said however that this was strictly for the converts – the angular, discordant and frankly weird chord and time changes would probably not reel in the average man or woman from the street, and judging by the bald heads in the audience they have grown as RL has also aged. He put an immense effort into this however and the whole thing was tight as it could possibly be. No particular nods to the audience, although there were quips in one track about how the band “just put a few chords together” but are “better than that”…
It does have to be said, so BM is just going to say it, that the only comparable act out there (i.e. always going forward, no previous “hits” or audience singalongs etc), charismatic, enigmatic frontman calling the shots, making challenging new guitar-based music in a similar vein, well until four years ago, were The Fall. And now BM thinks The Nightingales are the only ones left standing of that ilk, from that era, who are not revisiting “classic albums” or doing the greatest hits – ok name one with any shred of integrity left, it’s a challenge.
There was no encore but there was no need, this audience went home sated, and BM was inspiring by RL’s continued energy and dogmatism – and let that be a lesson to all of you!