Academy, Manchester, May 3rd
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 [a]Glasvegas[/a]. 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 [b]‘EUPHORIC///HEARTBREAK’[/b], 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 [b]‘Pain Pain, Never Again’[/b]. During [b]‘The World Is Yours’[/b] 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 [b]‘It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry’[/b], 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, [b]‘Shine Like Stars’[/b] is swooning stadium rock at its finest, with its inky synths creeping towards the most skyscraping of crescendos, while [b]‘You’[/b] 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 [b]‘Dream Dream Dreaming’[/b] and unabashed romanticism of [b]‘Euphoria, Take My Hand’[/b] prick the skin just as sharply, even if the volume needle isn’t being forced into the red.
Older material is plundered, too – [b]‘Flowers & Football Tops’[/b] is stripped down to a brittle, skeletal form, while the word [b]‘Manchester[/b] is somehow shoe-horned into [b]‘Geraldine’[/b]’s chorus – but tonight is really about [b]‘EUPHORIC///HEARTBREAK’[/b]. “I forget the lyrics of this one, but let’s give it a wee bash,” Allan grins by means of introduction to penultimate track [b]‘Lots Sometimes’[/b], 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.