The first Young Fathers gig in Glasgow for almost five years was always going to be hotly anticipated (they did do a smaller Edinburgh date as a warm-up around a month ago before heading to several European countries where they obviously have enough of a following to make it worth the costly travel, ridiculous red tape and other things that BM hears is making things far more difficult for bands of any size to make touring abroad worth their while).
Anyway, this was the first of two sold out dates at Glasgow’s biggest old-style venue, a former cinema just south of the river which the Academy Group acquired the best part of 20 years ago after reputedly being knocked back by the McIver family on an offer for the Barrowland Ballroom. Fortunately the live music scene has been healthy enough since then to allow both venues to co-exist although serving a basically similar market of mid-scale touring artists from the UK and beyond. It has to be said that the Academy, while having a higher ceiling and some nice period features, tends to have poorer sound and sightlines than the Barras and on a busy night like this can get a bit claustrophobic.
First up was Callum Easter, tonight in yet another iteration of his stage/music setup, this time at various points on keyboards/guitar/moothie/weird blowy thing and backed by two female singers for the first track, then further joined by his regular drummer and bass player/keys for the rest of the set.
Callum was as usual deploying his hundred yard stare and shit-eating grin combination and what sporting what could only be described as a flasher’s coat, a long mackintosh, which came off after a few songs then went back on again later in the set – very Callum!
The bulk of the eight song set was from the ‘System’ album, although confusingly some of them also appear on more recent release ‘Get Forever…’. Anyway, the addition of the female vocals gave the tracks a different feel, very interesting, and Callum’s repeated clambering, and almost tripping over, the various bits of equipment and monitors strewn around the stage to get to the edge of it was quite hilarious – inadvertently? – don’t think so!
As well as musical and vocal talent this guy has charisma and comedy bones… At times sounding a bit like Suicide in the minimalist electronic backing (especially at first), the set built up to catchier numbers like ‘Back Beat’ and ‘Fall In Love’, before ebbing away atmospherically with a stripped back version of ‘Be Somebody’ which held the by-now pretty packed house in thrall with its slightly 90s almost Blue Nile-esque vibe. A captivating performance and as BM has said, so far no two CE performances have been alike. And he left out ‘Feelings Gone’, perhaps his potentially biggest song to date!
When Young Fathers appeared just around 9pm the place erupted with excitement and the audience (and band) euphoria and excitement never really peeled itself off the ceiling, even during quieter numbers, until the end of the show. To say it was intense would be a massive understatement. Appearing as an eight-piece (the three core band members alternating stations on vocals, drums, beats, fx etc), regular YF percussionist on the big drums, two female (backing and at times lead) singers (different pair to CE’s) and Callum Easter on keys, guitar and backing vocals, this was a formidable unit, probably the most powerful YF iteration yet.
After the intro of ‘Freefalling’ from ‘Tape Two’, it was an all-guns-blazing opening salvo of ‘Get Up’ (did this audience want to have a party, well what do you think?) ‘Queen Is Dead’ and ‘Wow’ all supercharged versions of tried and tested songs, machine-tooled to get this crowd moving, and they certainly had that effect. And all the while the basslines throbbed, the electronic effects sizzled and Callum got to play some lacerating guitar… The sound was that of some kind of alien thunderstorm and really has to be witnessed at first hand!
It actually wasn’t until several more tracks in that material from new album ‘Heavy Heavy’ was premiered (‘Drum’ and ‘Be Your Lady’), after which a few more older tracks were played before they returned for a run through a further four new tracks including recent single ‘Geronimo’. The energy levels on that stage were through the roof, the singing of Bankole, Hastings and Massaquoi was powerful both alone and in various combinations along with the female vocalists, the dancing and moving around the stage was theatrical and the showmanship going on ramped up the fervid atmosphere and tension still further. BM has rarely seen a musical act, especially a group, work a crowd in this way but YF made it at times look almost effortless.
There was a solo spot for one of the female vocalists, a stripped-down new album track, while the home run consisted of an audience-taunting ‘Shame’ (at times one or other group member would take a massive stage light and shine in on the audience, provoking further reaction) and a version of ‘Toy’ which quite literally threatened to bring down the house – the place was shaking to the rafters. One by one the players left the stage, the big drums were knocked to the ground and could quite easily have rolled off the stage into the photographers’ pit. Eventually all that was left was one ‘G’ Hastings of Leith, Edinburgh, staring intently at the still baying audience, saying nothing but giving off the definite air of “take that, fuckers, now my work is done”…