Live Review: Glasvegas

Academy, Manchester, May 3rd

Takeshi Suga/NME
Pic: Takeshi Suga/NME
Just the briefest glimpse of James Allan’s knocking knees on Later… With Jools Holland last month was proof enough that something was awry in the state of Glasvegas. Allan’s typically belting lungs sounded short on oxygen, and his oddly cowed demeanour betrayed a figure bereft of confidence. Things haven’t been much better away from the TV studios, either; recent live outings have been decidedly shonky, by all accounts, suggesting that for all the talk of trumping tongue-tied inadequacy on ‘EUPHORIC///HEARTBREAK\\\’, the brittle nerves haven’t been completely vanquished.

Tonight, though, both of Allan’s sides – the brash and the bashful – are present, and he flits throughout from cocksure poseur to sheepish kid: a hobbledehoy trapped in the body of a 30-something rock star, self-consciously sashaying onstage to the swanky spotlight marking the lavish beginnings of ‘Pain Pain, Never Again’. During ‘The World Is Yours’ he crouches on one knee and tilts his head back to bellow the chorus, but follows it with an awkward half-bow, as if embarrassed by the scree still tumbling out behind him. Likewise, he basks with arms aloft in a mass singalong of ‘It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry’, only to stop and plonk himself on the floor, dangle his legs over the edge like a toddler and gently murmur “fucking hell” as he takes it all in. 

Of the (many) new songs, ‘Shine Like Stars’ is swooning stadium rock at its finest, with its inky synths creeping towards the most skyscraping of crescendos, while ‘You’ is all sleek, monochrome guitar and the crazed crashing of drums. It’s not all graceless bombast, though: the red-eyed tale of fraternal love and loss in ‘Dream Dream Dreaming’ and unabashed romanticism of ‘Euphoria, Take My Hand’ prick the skin just as sharply, even if the volume needle isn’t being forced into the red.

Older material is plundered, too – ‘Flowers & Football Tops’ is stripped down to a brittle, skeletal form, while the word ‘Manchester is somehow shoe-horned into ‘Geraldine’’s chorus – but tonight is really about ‘EUPHORIC///HEARTBREAK\\\’. “I forget the lyrics of this one, but let’s give it a wee bash,” Allan grins by means of introduction to penultimate track ‘Lots Sometimes’, but there’s scant need for self-effacement any more: this world is his, and even if it’s not one in which he feels entirely comfortable, he should get used to living in it. It’s where he belongs.

Ben Hewitt

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