The NME Carling Tour kicks off in Glasgow, and finds JJ72 without a drummer and Amen out of their minds...
They said it would never work. The seventh NME tour might feature its strongest line-up to date, but it’s also its most wildly eclectic – pitting the emotional acoustic extremity of Starsailor and Alfie against the metallic intensity of Amen and JJ72.
Before the show’s even started, however, such a simplistic split is rendered obsolete. An injury to
JJ72’s drummer Fergal Matthews means that Amen will headline with JJ72 forced to pair down to a Mark Greaney acoustic show.
To the sell-out crowd, it proves to be only a minor inconvenience. At 7.30 prompt, Starsailor take the stage and immediately justify all the praise that’s been heaped upon them. Even though they’ve yet to release a
single, they perform a set that resonates with classic-sounding material. Centre stage is singer James Walsh, and his skycraping vocals and dramatic intensity poleaxe a crowd who look like they’ve predominantly come to see
Amen. The closing ‘Good Souls’ – where they finally pick up electric guitars and soar – is particularly magnificent.
They lay down a gauntlet that Alfie respond to well. Singer Lee Gorton, with his laid-back Tim Burgess mannerisms, might remain on his stool for the whole of the set, but his group – augmented by cello and trumpet players –
soon lock into a kind of cosmic, shambling groove that overcomes any lingering doubts about their presence on this tour. By the end their guitarist Ian – complete with Frank Zappa moustache – is playing his guitar
behind his head to rapturous applause.
Mark Greaney will later admit to NME that before he took the stage his nerves almost overwhelmed him. As it transpires, stripped of an accompanying band, his acoustic renditions of songs that have already made JJ72 such major stars only adds to the intensity of the occasion. Current single
‘Snow’ especially stands out, if only because of the fervour with which the audience sings along.
All of which means by the time Amen finally bound onto the stage, the scene is set for a performance of righteous fury. Singer Casey Chaos is the
personification of punk confrontation and his band – with their precision drilled noise assault – only accentuate the ever-present sense of
anti-authoritarian abandon. ‘Calvin Klein Is A Killer’ and ‘4th Of July’ are
brutal punches to the face, and – as Casey leaps from the nearest speaker
stack – they reinforce Amen’s credentials as the most extreme and exciting
live act you’ll get to see in 2001. They’re a fitting end to a night which, once again, proved there’s no substitute for raw, unadulterated passion.