Beginning the new year in the Big Apple. Bowery Ballroom, New York (December 31)
Forget any preconceived stereotypes you may have about Glasvegas fans all being darkly dressed mopesters still struggling with the emotional after-effects of a fatherless childhood. 2009 is going to be the year their fanbase reaches way beyond sensitive indie types – starting right here, right now in New York City.
The band are in town for a two-day blitz of promo engagements and gigs – the first of which is a brief late-night set at Virgin Megastore (it’s a shop where they sell CDs, in case you don’t remember). As they cheerily sign albums for a seemingly endless line of fans, an immaculately manicured blonde girl with sunglasses, a suspiciously orange-looking tan and enough bling to pass for an extra in a Snoop Dogg video approaches the table and beams out her newfound enthusiasm. “I just came in the store to see who was playing and… Oh. My. Gaawwwd! You guys ROCKED! I even bought your album and I never buy albums. The last time I bought a CD was when I was 10 years old. I think it was Dashboard Confessional…”
And with that bizarre but extremely genuine endorsement still ringing in their ears, the band retire to the hotel to watch the broadcast of their strident rendition of ‘Geraldine’ on Late Night With David Letterman, which they recorded earlier in the day. Bassist Paul Donoghue, guitarist Rab Allan and frontman James Allan admire their handiwork on a giant screen in the hotel bar and order celebratory rounds of drinks that eventually create a wallet-stinging bill nearing the $500 mark. Spurning the propositions of several ladies of the night, James instead invites his old mucker Sune Rose Wagner from The Raveonettes and NME up to his room to continue the Olympic mojito-swigging contest while a fine selection of Echo And The Bunnymen blares out from his laptop. Several hours later, the night ends with the by-now bathrobe-clad singer spewing half a lung out into a dustbin placed strategically by the side of the bed.
Glasvegas have arrived, and they’re unashamedly living the rock’n’roll dream. The main event comes the following night when they play for a packed Bowery Ballroom and once again, it’s blindingly (quite literally) obvious that small clubs won’t be able to hold them for much longer. As the profound beauty of ‘Flowers And Football Tops’ descends over the crowd, the band are dramatically lit up by intense strobes and huge floodlights that look like they were rescued from the rubble of the old Wembley Stadium.
But it’s not just these trillions of watts that hint at how big Glasvegas will yet become, it’s the increasing verve and onstage presence of the band themselves. They up their game with every passing song; during ‘It’s My Own Cheatin’ Heart That Makes Me Cry’ James projects his voice as if he’s trying to make himself heard in Jersey and as Rab and Paul manically lunge around the singer, the song’s power seems to drown the room. Meanwhile, drummer Caroline McKay is also gradually becoming the kind of tub-thumper Glasvegas can not only rely on merely to keep time but can use to actually propel their gigs to wondrous new heights. As the terrace-chant euphoria of ‘Go Square Go’ reaches a thrilling peak, her pounding is loud enough to make it sound like there’s a subway train speeding out of control somewhere beneath the venue.
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Even ‘Stabbed’ has evolved brilliantly from the eerily skeletal album version to one that boasts cinematic levels of horror. In short, it sounds like Glasvegas have been working on making sure their songs are delivered in a way that is just too powerful to ignore, and with that in mind, it’s little wonder that they’re making instant devotees out of casual Dashboard Confessional fans.
As the aftershow party shifts into a high gear some time later, James and NME take five minutes away from the abundant alcohol to reflect on how far the Glasvegas gospel is reaching. “There are people coming to our gigs who look like they should be into Jay-Z, some of them look like slick rockabilly kids and some are just mad into Oasis,” he notes. “I’ve started to notice that contrast now, but I don’t want to be judgemental. I just like human beings and I’m buzzing that so many of them are coming to see us.” Musical taste, dress sense, hairstyle: they’ve all become incidental factors. The only thing you’ll need to appreciate Glasvegas during the next 12 months is soul.