Friday, 22 October 2010

Just a clever boy on the border



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Oran Mor, Glasgow.
Sunday, 17-10-10
So, what the fuck is it with these pre-eight o’clock early evening beginnings...  they seem to be infectious around these parts? I mean, you think you are arriving not that late, in the wider scheme of things, but you are still too late for RM Hubbert, it seems. He has been and gone before even stepping inside the palatial setting that is upstairs at Oran Mor. I can say no more than that, about the opening contender I’m afraid. But the venue is breathtaking, stunning... goodness me. Even though it is familiar and known, it still impresses you every-single-time you attend a show here (it is a heavenly world away from the dark crypt below, also used as a gig venue). In sum, Oran Mor certainly has the ‘WOW’ factor, the 'space', as Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer from the telly might say. So, drink in mouth, heart in hands, Nikon camera balanced on the edge of the gallery, James Graham and Andy MacFarlane shuffle on stage, bathed in purples and reds and blues, as well as a laser-sharp white light that makes James think he is in Ibiza (cue audience laughter). It’s a short, sweet, acoustic - not to mention intense - set from a stripped-down The Twilight Sad. And this line-up meets the demands of the venue perfectly. It’s the soaring voice amongst the high ceilings that gets to you. Despite facing the hopeful punters side-on, and looking as if a direct stare from the audience might give him heart failure, James sings deep fae his blood-and-soil(ed) insides and delivers some immense rasping sounds. Of particular note was ‘The Room’ (‘And her blood is never spilled after dinner / there’s wine on our breath...’), ‘Cold Days From The Birdhouse’ (tears are shed, jeezo)and their intimate If-Moz-came-fae-Kilsyth take on ‘Half a Person’. And it is over not long after it began. Nice things are said about the headliners and it is exit stage right, to mighty applause from all attending and James looking like he can’t wait to step out of this particular white spotlight. As for The Unwinding Hours... well, this was their night, their grand sweet-sixteen. A page seems to have been turned for the last time. Completely (well, almost completely... see later) removing the need to mention Their Band That Once Used To Be. Craig B and Ian Cook take the opulent stage to what must feel like a Cup Final on home turf, you’ve made it this far and in 90 minutes or less it could be victory. It is a mature, measured and confident few strides, opening with the epic six-minute ‘Knut’ (‘If we can / We will / We must / Get out’... repeat, repeat, repeat...). It sounds very loud. It sounds a rumbling kind of heavy that you feel in your feet, stomach and head. It sounds fucking incredible, actually. Then on the show moves to other glories from the CHEM132 debut album, including ‘There Are Worse Things Than Being Alone’, ‘Traces’, ‘Child’, ‘The Final Hour’. It’s a thoughtful recreation, rather than expanded reconstruction, of the album offerings but this is no bad thing at all. Having said this, it all changes – most wonderfully so - come the timely encore. We are treated to an acoustic version of ‘Burning River’ followed by a heartfelt version of the Sparklehorse song ‘Spirit Ditch’ (with RM Hubbert accompanying) and then, well, no. Not ‘Solstice’, despite more than a few calls for it from the gathered masses (‘CYNICAL!’). Rather, we are sent home with an Aereogramme tribute in our ears - ‘The Art of Belief’. There was no need for this, of course, the sound of The Unwinding Hours can stand on its own fully-formed, evolutionary, legs now, but the tender and caring look over the shoulder, a glance, is much appreciated by those humming on the way out onto the cold October corner of Great Western Road and Byres Road. The night is complete. Wrap up warm. Aye.
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The Twilight Sad - 'The Room' (acoustic) (4.17)
The Unwinding Hours - 'Solstice' (2.56)
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You can reach The Twilight Sad over here and The Unwinding Hours over here.
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