June 1, 2011
Fine Line Music Cafe
Near the end of Glasvegas' stirring performance at the Fine Line Wednesday night, frontman James Allan somewhat jokingly stated, "Thanks for your patience while sitting through my self-indulgent rock opera." And while he went on to say that the statement was only half-true (but that he was still undeniably self-indulgent), the 80-minute show felt more like a public therapy session than a rock opera, with Allan's struggles, triumphs, and inevitable falls all laid out clearly within his deeply emotive songs.
And it seems like Allan truly needs to make that deep connection with his audience (which he certainly did on this evening) in order to make all the pain and anguish he's experienced worth it; it got him up on that stage, sharing a part of himself with fans that obviously mean the world to him. Allan emphatically stated early in the set, "This is the best job in the world. I fucking mean it. Thanks for coming to see the band." And it was hard not to get swept away by his effusive sincerity, despite the fact that, while the rest of the band was dressed all in black, Allan was deliberately dressed all in white (apart from the black shades he kept on all show), from his cut-off Hawaii t-shirt right down to his peg-legged jeans and white trainers.
The band, with new drummer Jonna Löfgren in tow (who played her minimal drum kit standing up, just like Caroline McKay did), strode on stage to the taped intro of "Pain, Pain, Never Again," wasting little time before breaking into a thunderous version of "The World Is Yours," which immediately outshone the recorded version of that number (as did most of the new songs played throughout the night). There is a very glossy, antiseptic feel to Glasvegas' new album,
Guitarist Rab Allan (James' cousin) took a moment to ask the crowd if any of us were there the last time they came through town in 2009. "Anyone come to our gig at the theater? I have to apologize to you. I took some drugs before that gig. And, if you go on YouTube and search 'Geraldine' and 'Varsity Theater,' you can see that it was a real mess." And this sparked a long, hilarious discussion amongst the cousins about the various times they've done something stupid while under the influence, eventually causing James to put an end to it, "I don't know what we're talking about. Nothing to see here. This song's called 'Geraldine.'" The song is an absolute beast, and the band really nailed it on this evening, turning it into a soaring anthem that filled the small room.
Bassist Paul Donoghue switched to keys for the long intro to "Ice Cream Van" which gradually built in momentum before unleashing wildly at the end. And the band built on that fitful energy with the explosive main-set closer "Go Square Go," which found the crowd handling the "Here We Fucking Go" singalong much better than they did earlier. It was an emphatic, rousing finish, and it clearly reminded me just how good Glasvegas' self-titled debut was.
James and Rab came out together at the start of the encore, with Rab at the keys while James riffed a bit on the Mickey & Sylvia classic, "Love Is Strange," before easing into a tense, stripped down version of "Flowers & Football Tops," augmented only by keyboards and Allan's moody vocals. It added a darker twist to the old song (and sparked the "self-indulgent rock opera" remark), but clearly the bombast of the original was lost a bit, as was the "You Are My Sunshine" tag at the end, which Allan only touched on briefly in this version.
The rest of the band came out to join them at this point, with Allan asking us if we liked their new drummer. And Löfgren really did add a extra kick to their songs, while bringing a much needed pulse to their new songs. Her presence was really felt on their spirited run through of "S.A.D. Lights," which Löfgren really carried to new heights. Allan, who was clearly enjoying himself at this point, even playfully added a bit of the Bee Gees "Staying Alive" to the end of the track.
The band only built on that momentum with an ardent rendition of "Lots Sometimes," which is one of my least favorite tracks on the new record, but unexpectedly turned out to be one of my favorites from the set. Allan had the lyrics to the song written on three sheets that were taped to the stage, like he wanted to make sure they got the song right, and they surely did. And, after thanking the crowd one last time, Allan led the band through the emphatic closer, "Daddy's Gone," that ended the set triumphantly. James even praised our singing on the track, saying, "I love your accents. It's very exotic." And as the band left the stage to a rousing ovation, you couldn't help but feel Allan was healed just a bit by the strong reception his band was given on this evening.
Critic's Picks: I loved Glasvegas' debut (and their show at the Varsity), but was a bit unimpressed by their new album. But seeing those songs performed live certainly helped me like the record a bit more.
The Crowd: The club filled in nicely by the time Glasvegas took the stage, filled with supportive, passionate fans that clearly made a connection with James and the band.
Overheard In The Crowd: Again, some dude really thought it was Thursday. That cracked me up.
Random Notebook Dump: The Toronto trio Magneta Lane opened the night strongly, as the three ladies delivered at tight, rocking set which sadly not too many people heard, as the room was only starting to fill while they were playing. But it was a spirited performance that certainly set the stage well for Glasvegas.
Pain, Pain Never Again (Intro)
The World Is Yours
It's Your Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry
Shine Like Stars
Whatever Hurts You Through The Night
Dream Dream Dreaming
Euphoria, Take My Hand
Ice Cream Van
Go Square Go
Flowers & Football Tops (Encore)
S.A.D. Light (Encore)
Lots Sometimes (Encore)
Daddy's Gone (Encore)