Embrace Come Back to What They Know – King Tuts Glasgow 12 Feb

Embrace’s first gig back in nearly eight years took place on Wednesday night.
As they took to the stage, arms aloft, lead singer Danny McNamara told the crowd
“First gig back in nearly eight years, where do we want to go first? We want to go to fucking Glasgow don’t we.”
And then, (not that the King Tut’s crowd needed any more encouragement) the roar inside Scotland’s finest small venue would have easily filled places 5 times the size.
They were off and running as new track Protection opened proceedings.
It’s dark mysterious beginning, rather in keeping with the mood of new single Refugees, gave way to Blue Monday esque drum machine beats being dropped on the crowd. A new direction for the band known for their anthemic sing along tunes? Perhaps only time would tell.
Second new track In the End is more up beat and reminiscent of the Embrace everyone remembers. As it closes, just in case any of the crowd were wondering, Danny chipped in,
“It’s fucking good to be back.”
Comeback single Refugees with Richard McNamara on lead vocals was given its first live treatment and received a tremendous King Tuts reaction, before red glow sticks ( a neat little touch the band had added to great effect, building atmosphere at one of their now infamous ‘secret’ gigs) were introduced for another new, slower number, again well received.
In traditional King Tuts style, the small space directly in front of the stage was packed full of the Glasgow faithful, known for their banter and ability to let the band in attendance know exactly what they are thinking.
As the opening chords of Ashes sprung to life, the low black walls and ceilings might have been mistaken for sweating themselves.
By this point, it was clear the band were not only relaxing into the task at hand but also starting to realise just how much they had missed the feeling they were so clearly enjoying.
Veciferous Scottish chants of “T in the Park” “Come on” “ya Beauty” amongst others were met with equal response from the band who were all well and truly strapped into the emotional roller coaster they’d been missing for so many years.
As the tempo shifted from song to song, each member of the band had on show, emotional displays ranging from sheer exuberance to that of thoughtfulness and contemplation.
Before ‘Gravity’, Danny caressed the microphone and closed his eyes briefly in a moment where a picture said more than a thousand words could. Likewise were the glances of sibling re-assurance that he frequently shared with brother Richard.
For a band who’ve been away so long, it was alway going to be an emotional return..particularly in a city world famous for the emotion and passion they put into everything they do.
The band showed there’s a new direction.. It’s not a million miles out of kilter from that which everyone previously knew but clearly they have been inspired to add enough of a smattering of experimentation combined with raw emotions to cement the new sound.
Set closer “Thief” Summed the night up nicely.
With its haunting intro, before the tempo was upped and some hefty reverberation on the keys gave way to crashing huge beats… Then another final twist of sheering, sawing guitar and the sudden closing thuds of the drum machine left the Glasgow crowd shouting for more.
Eight years out has revitalised the band, who appeared invigorated and inspired. What we have is a darker sound, but Embrace are emphatically Back!

Oh… They still have a sense of humour though.
“It’s like riding a bike” Danny told the crowd as they came back for an encore.
“What shall we play” he asked
The reaction was unanimous as King Tuts burst into its own chorus of Come Back to What you Know.
“Ah” he said “we’ve not rehearsed that, “We may fuck it up”
They didn’t, they rocked it, and as everyone left King Tuts, it was more than the odours of Glasgow sweat and beer that lingered…
Glasgow reeked of an emotional, triumphant return. A comeback? Yes, but to much more than what they or we knew.


Edinburgh Festival Review Fri 09 Aug 13

Friday 9th August was my first outing to this years Edinburgh Festival and what an evening it turned out to be. Never used to being able to capture much more than a show or two in one outing, being able to sample five quite different acts made for a very interesting evening. Transport times to and from the city were self enforcedly set in stone for this trip, more down to previous mishaps with missed trains and much fallout from loved ones.
With that said, it still left 5 hours for all the fun and frolics of the festival. It was a warm evening and the sun was shining, the temperature still somewhere around 15 degrees. The atmosphere on the Royal mile was exactly as any previous reveller would expect… bustling, buoyant, friendly and warm. The temperature aside, Edinburgh always has even more of a warmth about it during the festival period. Friday night was no exception. The mood was set.
And so it is, with some shame, and a little embarrassment that I’m unable to tell you the name of the first act I saw. What I can tell you is that just after 5PM on Friday evening I was entranced by a group of African singers, performing perfect acappella on the Royal mile, at the rear hind quarters of St.Giles Cathedral. They were soulful, enthusiastic, animated and stopped many bypassers in their tracks, myself included. In the 5 minutes or so of their performance they had me mesmerised by the roadside.
As they finished, I’d almost forgotten that the main reason I’d come in tonight was the promise of free entertainment courtesy of the BBC at Potterrow, via a friend of mine.
We made our way to Bristo Square and through to the BBC tent. We’d been asked to arrive early for the 6.30PM show and paying attention to this worked to our advantage.
We arrived to the banging drums, gallus guitar, unmistakeable bagpipes, dancing ladies and not forgetting mohawk sporting ‘G-man’ (previously of Red Hot Chilli Pipers) that make up Scottish New music awards current group of the year, “Bags of Rock.”
In stark contrast to the earlier musical interlude, these guys thrust their blend of music upon our ears, which is in your face and yet no less appealing than the African acappella harmonies. Take all the patriotic passion of Scottish music, blend it with the attitude and fervour of your favourite rock classics, grab yourself a beer and enjoy. As they say themselves, to be enjoyed LOUD. I caught up with lead man Gregor James after the set, who reminded me this was just the ‘Wee band’ as well. Unfortunately it was their only show at the Fringe but you can see them at the upcoming Motherwell beer festival on Sep 27th. Highly recommended! http://www.lanarkshire2013.com/events/2013/september/beer-festival

So, then onto the reason we’d come along. This came in the form of a Q and A session with Irish comedian Jason Byrne, talking about his upcoming BBC One sitcom “Father Figure.” The session was pretty informal, hosted by Peter Curran, who spoke to Byrne about the sitcom, it’s beginnings as a radio show and it’s transformation to television. Based on events drawn down from his own life, he plays a (hopefully loveable) father, husband and son, the central character in this family sitcom. Their was plenty of humour throughout the session and the majority of the crowd seemed as much at ease as Curran and Byrne. There was time for some audience questions, which, pleasantly, gave Byrne the opportunity to slip briefly back into stand up mode, enjoying a bit of banter with the Scottish audience. The show is due to start mid September on BBC One. You can catch his stand up show at the festival until 25 Aug.

Then followed a short walk to the Gilded Balloon venue, where we quickly grabbed some tickets for two more shows.
First up was @lee_Kern whose show entitled “Bitter Twitter” was highly entertaining. For anyone possessing even the slightest understanding of how social media mammoth “Twitter” works / used by millions, the show is a laugh a minute. It explores all aspects of the phenomenon from the downright stupidity of some of the tweets seen daily to the way it has changed how we all interact. In particular it explores how this has changed the entire concept of interacting with celebrities. Lee’s huge mix of craziness and pace meant there’s something for everyone. Many celebrity users came under fire too but never with any malice attached. Kern has taken a very simple idea and created something quite unique which worked very well on the stage. If you use social media at all, go see this show. As with the idea, it was simply brilliant!

The final show of the night was Howard Read’s “Hide and Speak.” If you’ve ever seen the comedy animation “Little Howard” this is the man who brought him to life.
This show blended stand up comedy with animation, which saw Read, front (if perhaps not directly centre) stage, controlling (via a Playstaion remote) and voicing his creations, animated on a big screen.
If that sounds a bit much to take in, seeing the show live was a little like that too. I wasn’t sure whether to look at the screen or at Read and although it flowed for a few spells it just seemed like too much was going on at once. Unfortunately some of the gags were lost on the crowd too, which unfortunately saw Read lose his rhythm on a few occasions. It’s a bit of a shame though, because there were a few times he had the crowd in hysterics. This was usually dealing with hecklers and when reverting back to a more traditional stand up approach.
If you enjoy animation, it might be more your cup of tea. It just wasn’t really mine. Ultimately a bit disappointing.

One mad dash later and I was on the train home. I sat thinking back over the evening and wondering how we had managed to fit so much in. It is not without a touch of irony that my friend, often jokingly referred to as having a Tardis for transport couldn’t make it along. I did manage to find his transport nestling at the entrance to the BBC tent at Potterrow though, which I realised had obviously been the reason we got through so much. That perhaps or just meticulous attention to detail and planning. Regardless, a great evening and evidence a plenty of why people keep coming back to the Edinburgh Festival.

The Velveteen Saints – Nice n Sleazy

Chalk and cheese? Right and wrong? Black and White? Och no!
Perhaps more like my Ying and yang kind of a day. The mother in law is visiting this week and we had promised her a trip to the Royal Yacht Britannia as a birthday treat earlier in the year. As with many best laid plans, it never quite came to fruition. We decided that we would take her along today and the heavens blessed us with calm seas and bright skies. Ok, many of you know that the yacht was retired a number of years ago and it is now in dock at Leith Ocean Terminal. But it certainly made for a great day. The tour is worth making time for. The contrasts experienced above and below deck are quite something… A real look at how the other half live. Oh, and the Royal tea room does cracking scones. Mother in law highly recommends the Victoria sponge too.
Ah yes, contrasts! So, that was my day. The evening, somewhat in contrast and definitely more my thing. Off to Glasgow’s Nice n Sleazy I ventured to see local band The Velveteen Saints.
Changed days from rocking up at gigs five minutes before the main act is on stage.
We were in Nice n Sleazy promptly, at 2015. The first pleasant surprise was bumping into Mr Nick Fraser. I seem to be making a habit of that lately. What a gent! During our catch up, I find, as I am, he’s excited about the lineup.

First up was singer songwriter Daniel Meade.
Immediately it strikes me that his style of music is quite different to that of the band at the top of the bill. That’s encouraging though, it shows The Velveteen Saints are intent on giving tonight’s crowd as much variety as possible.
There’s a definite country vibe going on with Daniel, his guitar alternating between upbeat and soothing songs. The melodies are catchy and the mix makes for enjoyable listening.
Dressed in suit jacket, tie, red shirt and jeans, Daniel is a storyteller.
Initial thoughts are of.. I’m not quite sure…Dylan? A Glaswegian Cash? Gram Parsons?
All in there, but it’s probably Hank Williams who if,he’d popped in would have been tapping his cowboy boots in the same fashion as me, thinking…this guy is real good.
Lyrically, there’s a lot of thought gone into these tunes.
From “It’s hard hard hard, help me carry on, for the song” and
“Thank you for the good times and
“Headstone where her heart used to be”
Finishing with a bit of a country stomp, perfect for getting you in the mood for what was to come, and just right with Sleazy’s ceilings too. Just high enough that you won’t bang your head, low enough that you’ll catch your hands if aloft whilst jumping.
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/64473721″ params=”auto_play=false&show_artwork=true&color=ff7700″ width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Next up was The Minx. they’re from Manchester and have a sound that has been influenced by bands through the ages. They kick off with a heavily laden Buzzcocks sound. My eye caught bassist Stephen’s Specialsesque strap holding the guitar and I wondered what else we might expect.
What we got, was big keyboard, punky poppy boppy numbers that were effervescent and engaging.
As the sound of “I don’t like you, you don’t like me” began to catch in my brain I thought how perfectly it suited the Dr Martens and turned up jeans donned by a couple of members of the band.
Fusing genre upon genre there was something in here for everyone.
Just like one of the title’s…”I found my head”. It was rocking amidst more long keys and outros, which brought the set to a close….with a bang!
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/49317867″ params=”auto_play=false&show_artwork=true&color=ff7700″ width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Which brought us to The Velveteen Saints.
“I hope you’re feeling generous” the first words didn’t take long to receive a response.
As the lyrics “You need me” shot out across the crowd, I felt myself thinking that right now, the music business really does!
These guys give us Rock n Roll like it used to be… And yet not!
Mama didn’t raise no fools here, they began to sing.
Although many of their influences are clearly from the past, they combine that so sweetly with an attitude that could only be born of modern day Glasgow!
Wake me up..kicks it with style. We feel the drums, then Juliet.
Follow these guys and you certainly wont die alone!
They have character, charisma, on stage presence, tunes that rock and attitude.
Top marks Nice n Sleazy, a sterling nights music.
In short, If you are looking for something to put the oomph back in your record collection, check out The Velveteen Saints. They will not disappoint.
After a performance like tonight’s and with tunes like those, Rock n Roll is (most certainly not) dead!