New York Bowery Ballroom

In case you missed the cue, Arab Strap mean business. ..

Arab Strap could be – nay, have been – accused of many things, but pandering to an audience isn’t one of them. So when Aidan Moffat strides to the mic it’s no surprise to see he’s left his ‘I Love NY’ T-shirt in the wash. “We’re from Scotland, where our friends are all c***s and you don’t have to wear these,” he says, indicating the wristband that’s obligatory for anyone wishing to purchase alcoholic drinks at this otherwise estimable venue. Ignoring a smatter of witticisms from said c***s, his next words are ‘Packs Of Three”s immortal, “It was the biggest cock you’d ever seen…”.

In case you missed the cue, Arab Strap mean business. Tired of being misunderstood, misled or just plain missed, there’s a manifest commitment to getting the job done here, to going to work on anyone that ever doubted this remarkable band and offering vindication to all those who ever believed. When Adele Bethel walks out for a smouldering ‘Pyjamas’, her glower freezes everyone in the building, as well as a few more across the street. Malcolm Middleton never once lifts his head to acknowledge anything other than what he has to do, his guitar-playing suggesting melodies as much as revealing them. The rhythm section bleeds each groove empty. Aidan winces a lot, striving to deliver each oath, savage or sympathetic, with ultimate severity.

New York, then, is gifted the sound of a band in perfect synergy with its soul – and fair play, they respond with awed respect. New songs, ‘Blackness’ and ‘Scenery’ confirm reports that the next Strap album is better than even their stoutest admirers could have expected. A rumoured new disco direction remains just that, though perhaps Aidan wasn’t able to get Barry White’s suit altered in time.

If any testament was required as to the universality of these sad laments, this is it: a packed NY audience listening in rapt silence to a scruffy bloke from Falkirk. Strap into America – how much more black could it be?

Keith Cameron