by / April 29th, 2011 /

Glasvegas – Mandela Hall, Belfast

The arena descends into blackness and is suddenly lit by bright purple lights on the empty stage. The haunting French female vocal of the atmospheric ‘Pain Pain, Never Again’ starts and the audience shuffle expectantly, waiting. Glasvegas appear, frontman James Allan clad completely in white, an imposing figure menacing the audience from behind a pair of sunglasses. The entire stage set-up is more neon than expected from such Scottish miserablists, the lead vocal mic cable fibre-optically changing colour bathing Allan in acid light from its usual position draped around his neck.

They’re obviously here to promote their new album and do it in style. James takes off his Elvis-style high collar white jacket to reveal a EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK \\\. It’s the material from the first album that elicits more of a response though, ‘It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry’ creating an atmosphere not far from a football match, the crowd joining in to sing almost every word. Each line is wrenched from him as he writhes onstage, at one point lying prone on the ground like a Scottish Morrissey with the neon cable embracing him like a boa constrictor.

Known for their fandom of Phil Spector and his ‘Wall Of Sound’ approach, the band also create a visual ode, building a literal wall of amps to blast the audience with. A lot of the vocal is lost in this haze so we go on visual cues: seeing the band play furiously, standing drummer Jonna Löfgren resembling Animal from The Muppet Show with her head-banging antics and the guitarist and bassist playing so fast and animated that, at times, they look like clockwork toys miming to a hidden backing track. The crescendo of each song sees James lean backwards balancing on his toes, creating a white silhouette against the blackness as he howls up at the ceiling. Even a sip of beer becomes a swaggering performance, the bottle being raised to his mouth in the most outlandish fashion and then lovingly handed to a chosen audience member who laps this up appreciatively.

Allan has a voice suited to dirges. This is an unmistakable fact and the more melodic first album is lifted by the ’60s inspired pop hooks whereas EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK \\\ tends to wallow in the mire of reverb. This isn’t completely the case though, as ‘Whatever Hurts You Through The Night’ is almost reminiscent of Hot Fuss-era Killers in its audience-uniting drumbeat.. Their covers are more than a nod to this pop sensibility, with a version of Dionne Warwick’s ‘Heartbreaker’ and a thundering, feedback-drenched yet somehow faithful version of ‘Be My Baby’ by The Ronettes.

The second half of the gig is more high-octane than the first with the big hitters like ‘Geraldine’ (complete with a change of the middle section to “Belfast, I need you” ) and ‘Go Square Go’, the audience carrying on with the refrain of “Here we, here we, here we fucking go!” longer than even the band expected, delighting them to the point of goofy grins. It all gets a bit silly, with plenty of crotch grabbing from Allan. He deals with a zealously thrown t-shirt hitting him in the face in a laid-back manner, carrying on with the song and donning the offending item for a while. An encore is expected and delivered with a 50:50 ratio of old to new songs. Ending with ‘Daddy’s Gone’ it may be evident that the crowd-pleasers are farther back in the back catalogue but it’s still a back catalogue that gets the audience singing along.