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Gig review gig reviews (Scottish)

The Twilight Sad / We Were Promised Jetpacks / Holy Mountain

So, after most of a year’s anticipation (no gigs in Scotland since the early flurry that included the last Betty review at Grand Ol’ Opry) we finally reach The Twilight Sad headlining at the Barrowland. I think the biggest show they have played to date was ABC1 last year, so it’s big, and a challenge for any band to live up to…

To help the event they have booked a couple of diverse support acts. Holy Mountain, with already one album under their boxers, raise a fair racket to a pretty sparse crowd starting around 7.45pm. The classic power trio line-up, drums leading in the middle, drummer starting gig bare-chested, bass and guitarist in fetching semmits, owes something to, well, everyone from Sabbath to Biffy, with Motorhead and Big Black in between. Some of the theatrics were pure Tap via Maiden but the sound was crunchingly good, the timing dead on and the riffs (pretty much no vocals bar a few growls) and solos impressive. No songs really but quite a class live act and a good appetiser.

We Were Promised Jetpacks have a been around for a few years now, a couple of albums behind them and have recently been touring with TTS in the US – their sound has expanded, perhaps got darker and some more interesting edges have been displayed of late, but (and it pains me to say this ‘cos it sounds unfair, they are working for it) they appear to be trying too hard, still a bit too much Snow Patrol and not enough Fall, if you catch my drift. Obviously talented, and still very young, they could still be original but for the moment they are a bit out of their depth, promoted beyond their capabilities to feed the great Scottish Indie Guitar Band machine, still really just looking for the next Snow Patrol (yes I’ve mentioned them twice, sorry)…and the money it brings!

It was 9.45pm and an almost full Barrowlands when TTS finally took to the stage, the dry ice a wee bit overdone but that’s the festive spirit. Even before they came on it was obvious that with the whole stage being a lot bigger there would be a more expansive look to the set-up, Mark Devine’s drumkit well to the back, guitarist Andy McPartland well out the the left, the keyboards/effects way to the right and the bass tucked in beside the drums. It really was then focused on frontman James Graham who did not disappoint although I think we was saving his voice for the choruses, sensible given the racket he was contending with. His presence, continually falling back from the mike, is along with his starkly delivered lyrics, a main part of the unique appeal of this band, in Betty’s opinion still for the forth or fifth year running, best band currently active in Scotland.

The fourteen tracks played tonight were divided 4/3/7 between albums one and three, no cover versions and no encore. The lighting was sparse at first but numerous spotlights first in black and white and then in colour built to the sort of strobed and psychedelic climax that suited the music. As with all previous TTS shows the words “menacing”, “malevolent” and “brooding” would apply to the guitars, drums and general throbbing of the instruments; meanwhile the new tracks were as cold, alienated and dead as they were on the album, just more so. They have talked about most recent influences but certainly Depeche Mode were evident – in a good way…

James did communicate with the crowd, telling them “we’re just a wee band from Kilsyth… I never thought I’d be standing here” and thanking various people, including bassist Johnny “Doc” Docherty and keyboards player Brendan Smith, who are relinquishing their live duties as the core band starts to write new material and do it all again.

Justice has certainly been done for anyone who saw them at Barfly and before, a triumph at still Scotland’s best music venue for anyone who really cares – what next?

They also went WAY over the 11pm Barraw curfew btw, Betty left at 11.15pm and the last wall of feedback was still squalling, but don’t tell GCC Licensing, this was local boys done good etc…

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