I went on Facebook last night and posted something. It’s not normally something that I do…I tend to use the place as a way of throwing out pithy one-liners in response to what others have said; indeed, I only joined up in the first place as it was the way to keep on top of certain announcements around events and ticket availability. But such was the magnitude of the happening that I felt I had to share my thoughts with my cybernet mates:-
They say good things tend to come in threes. Here’s some evidence….
I recently had the good fortune to catch incredible live performances, at small intimate venues, from two of my all-time favourites in the shape of Robert Forster and Belle & Sebastian.
Not too many things could top that. But the announcement that Aidan and Malcolm are reforming for three live shows this coming October does exactly that.
2016 started off real shit for music fans with far too many sad and untimely deaths. The summer has so far been an awful lot better…..
A wee bit of explanation.
Robert Forster is a total legend. But his visits to these parts are, naturally, few and far between and so the fact he was coming to Glasgow and playing, of all places, the wonderful space that is King Tut’s made it a ‘must see’. However, I was nagged by the fact that someone as talented and revered as him wasn’t playing a larger venue given the legacy of his time as a Go-Between and not forgetting last year’s Songs To Play was such a wonderful listen. I was concerned too that I’d go along and end up annoyed with folk who were only there for the old stuff and would show a lack of respect by talking their way through the material they either didn’t know or were less fond of. And in a venue with a 300 capacity, all it would take is a handful of such idiots to ruin the occasion.
My fears came to nothing as this was one of the best audiences I’ve ever had the privilege of being part of. Robert and his band got a rousing reception and the cheers for his solo material were every bit as loud as those for the songs by his old band. He was on stage for the best part of two hours, struggling a bit with his voice as he had a dreadful cold, but where many would have been tempted to use that as an excuse to hold back in a performance he seemed to use it to push himself that bit harder. He played around 20 songs with half coming from the Go-Betweens back catalogue…and he had such a talented group of musicians with him that it felt as if the clock really had been rolled back more than 30 years. It was bliss. I didn’t think I’d enjoy myself so much at a gig in 2016.
And then, just two weeks later I find myself at the Debating Chamber of Glasgow University Union (capacity 500 – 250 standing and same again seated upstairs). I’ve been in this space quite a few times but never for a gig….and by my reckoning it will be about the 75th different Glasgow venue that I’ve paid to see live music performed (must do a posting o that sometime). Belle & Sebastian are due on stage for what will be the first of three nights to celebrate their own 20th Anniversary and the 21st Birthday of the West End Festival, a highly popular event held every summer in the most bohemian quarter of my home city. I’m not sure what to expect as my expectations of the band have been gradually diminishing in recent years with recent albums leaving me disappointed and then there was a farce of a gig at the Hydro (capacity 13,000) in which they failed dismally in their efforts to put on a show in keeping with that size of venue. It was full of gimmicks, stage-managed to the point of ridiculous and just not in keeping with the band so many of us had fallen head over heels with.
Another show just under two hours long, with most of the material drawn from the very early albums and EPs , and almost all the songs being aired in the live setting for the first time since I didn’t have any X’s in front of the L in the label of my indie-kid t-shirts. And it was joyous and a celebration of everything that not only makes the band special but brings out the best in folk from my home city who know instinctively when they are seeing and hearing something special and react accordingly. There was no talking in between songs, no attempts to sing-a-long and drown out the band, and there was hand-clapping when the band sought a bit of accompaniment at the right times. I smiled at the opening note of the first song and I was still grinning as myself and Aldo made our way home in time for the last train thanks to the venue being in an area where there is an early curfew – this would normally be a bone of contention but not on a Monday night when there’s a long week at work ahead!
Two days later though, all of that gets topped.
Arab Strap were together for ten years from 1996. Since then, Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton have carved out successful and critically acclaimed solo careers which has played a part in how revered their original band had become since they walked off stage for the last time in December 2006. They jokingly (or so it seemed) said at the time said they might reform in another ten years.
The internet stirred last weekend when the band’s website suddenly carried the teasing message ‘HELLO AGAIN’ imposed on top of a very early promo photo. A countdown to Monday lunchtime led to a message to listen in to Steve Lamacq’s show on BBC Radio 6 on Wednesday afternoon. That was where it was confirmed they were getting together for three shows in October in London, Manchester and Glasgow. Furthermore, a download single was being available – a Miaoux Miaoux remix of The First Big Weekend – which would be released 20 years to the day when the actual weekend in question took place. Which just happens to be today.
I’ve purchased and downloaded the song and it is fucking amazing. A musical highlight not just of 2016 but of the 21st Century.
A year that was threatening to be the worst ever has suddenly, and very unexpectedly, taken a huge turn for the better.