Tuesday, January 6
First show I’ve ever been to where my eyes rang afterward. Glasvegas have arrived from Scotland with four 10-foot-tall lighting fixtures powerful enough to illuminate an airport runway. They are playing the Bowery Ballroom, which, as you recall, is a fairly small, confined, indoor space; the modest stage a runaway onto which a plane cannot safely land, only crash. You dress for the job you want, not the job you have; this maxim does not apply to your rock-concert’s venue. The arrival of the chorus to “Flowers and Football Tops” is blindingly painful; we are all suddenly compelled to squint mightily or stare at the floor as the bombastic arena-rock grandeur washes over us. Narcissism paradox: The impetus to draw as much attention to yourself as possible might compel you to construct stage lighting so overwhelming it is physically impossible to look at you.
Of course, it’s blind/blinding ambition that makes Glasvegas so astounding (per the NME) and/or amusing (per me). Frontman James Allan basically sings every line of every song as if it’s the climactic moment of “With or Without You,” whether he is extensively quoting “You Are My Sunshine” or leading us through a chorus of “I’ll be waiting for the ice-cream man to come.” The music, too, is permanently stuck in Soaring Epiphany mode, all comforting reverb and whoa-oh-oh backing vox and future-primitive percussion from stand-up drummer Caroline McKay, whose beat drags just enough to consistently draw attention to herself.
They’re pretty goddamned appealingly earnest, though, and if you’re gonna name a song “It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry” I would vastly, vastly prefer you be earnest about it. Ditto the black leather jackets. Ditto the ludicrous lighting scheme, too, even though we come to dread the choruses, and during a rare moment of between-song silence folks in the crowd shout a different sort of request: “Turn it off!” “Too bright!” “No lights!” The assault continues, alas, and we go back to shoegazing. “I bet you never thought you would see again,” deadpans Allan near the end of the affair. “This song’s called ‘Daddy’s Gone.’ I love you.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 7, 2009