MUSIC LIVE REVIEWS
' B .. .;".’ -" , 5’43? . l
Venue. Edinburgh. 23 March.
There are certain problems with being a self-proclaimed sex symbol. and two ofthem are here tonight. Prime contenders for lead roles should The Fat Slags ever be televised. this well-refreshed. belacqucred twosome storm the stage with alarming persistence whilst the sexy. boyish Dr Robert Howard wrestles manfully with their amorous advances. simultaneously offering a consistently impressive. stirring set ofacoustically conceived. predominantly new compositions.
The Blow Monkeys' fusion of political polemic with funk and latterly techno beats had always a certain charm. though more the charm ofan oddball on a soapbox than that ofa true agitator. Bolanesque glam-camp helped — the BM‘s were great ifyou deciphered the feather boas. pouts and Edwardian chic and refused to take them seriously. This holds true tonight, made more agreeable and fetching by Howard‘s stripped-down three-piece band and his own unpretentious. energetic and charismatic performance.
The man is a born star. As he struts. poses. throws a shape, rocks it up, goes all mellow, it‘s like watching a child in a playroom. In a turquoise velvet (or is it corduroy?) suit. brown brogues and mustard polo-neck, he is nimble on the fretboard (the new songs are more rock than funk) and healthy oflarynx. The epic ‘Hcavenly Thing‘ and singalong ’Some People‘ are both rousing. ‘Wait‘ and the meisterwerk, ‘Diggin‘ Your Scene‘, are dispensed via housified, keyboard blurs and a sombre stroll through Scott Walker‘s ‘While The War ls Going On‘ keeps the political broadcast alive. But these are barely necessary: the new material is incredibly strong. He gets three encores from a sparse but appreciative crowd. and deserves them. The Fat Slags are right about Bob. He's a natural born poet. he‘s just out ofsight. (Paul W. Hullah)
VLIVE . ‘ BLEACH/ASPIDISTRA
King Tut’s, Glasgow, 13 March.
Up till now my feelings for Glasgow- based Aspidistra have trodden a narrow fence; now it’s time to be unequivocal. Aspidistra are mighty. Mighty powerful, mighty unsettling. Their stimulus seems to come from an understanding of the potency intrinsic to their instuments. It's not what they do to the guitars, but how-take a chord, any chord, and hold it down until it (orthe audience) scream for merciful release. Underpin this soaring repetition with a resonant bassline and a solid beat which threatens to unfurl at any moment, and you may not have many tunes, but you do have a miasmic atmoSphere constructed with brilliant economy.
Their arrival on stage is heralded by two supremely ugly bursts of ear-splitting feedback from a guitar— probably someone just picking it up - but from then on, it’s sonorous city. Three ‘compositions’ in, however, something breaks the reverie. The guitar rebels against the persistent pummelling and two strings twang loose. Not a disaster, true, but what follows looks like the ritual strangulation of the instrument, its owner imposing an asphyxiating grip on the top fret, extorting some mangled wall from the wretched beast.
From there the melodrama passes to the bassist. Nothing less than
Aspidistra bloodshed will suffice in his zeal to communicate, and what starts as a fine trickle down the front of his bass becomes a river of self-imposed pain. Eventually the plectrum drops, ineffectual, and he pulls and plucks any which way. Left to hold the spectacle together, the drummer does well to retain one of his sticks as the other flies beyond reach. Athrilling drama climaxes, then collapses. Tune in next week, as restoration work begins . . . Thus Bleach, the headline act, are relegated to a token eleventh-hour acknowledgement of theirworkaday
guitar blur. Ironic really, as Salli sings
of escape from monotony. I spend the entire set feeling sorry for them, and that’s patently not right. A great band could still command adulation in the most debilitating circumstances. As it is, Bleach don’t look as though they know why they’re here at all. (Fiona Shepherd)
Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow, 20 March.
Boom. One day, you wake up and realise that The Fall have stealthily crept up to the status of ‘priority’ act with major label backing, an audience which has no plans to desert them and enough security men and goiers to attend to their (probably) modest needs. And they’ve done it without sacrificing an ounce of their imagination and integrity.
Tonight, they’re on excellent, compelling form. Craig Scanlon grabs us by the scruff of the neck with the opening chords of ‘Time Enough At Last’ and they keep a rough hold on us through a set that’s drawn almost entirely from the last four years, with only an encore of ‘Mr Pharmacist’ going back any further. Material from the tepidly-received ‘Shift-Work’ album blooms live, the title track packing a far greater wallop than the subdued recorded version. Most bands
of The Fall‘s vintage would be playing Greatest Hits sets by now; they must be unique in that they can ignore the first decade of their existence (and not bother to play more than one track from their best record in years, 1990’s triumphant ‘Extricate’) without leaving an audience feeling short-changed.
You could call the band’s attitude workmanlike if you want, but you’d have to take into account that their work ethic is a hangover from a time when people cared about their bleedin’ craft, y’know worra mean, cock? There’s no flash, no attempt to attract any attention to themselves, just solid graft. And they sound marvellous.
So there’s absolutely nothing to distract from Mark E. Smith, as assured, impenetrable and menacing as anyone who's ever prowled the OM’s stage. It gives us pause to consider one of life’s great mysteries: how can one unappealing-looking guy who moves so little and can’t even sing command total attention for an hour-plus in a venue this size? (Alastair Mabbott)
V BOOK NOW
Concerts listed are those at major venues, for which tickets are on public sale at time of going of press.
I GLASGOW BARROWLAND (226 4679) Levellers, 1 May; Nick Cave. 6 May; Carter. 8-9 May.
I GLASGOW CELTIC PARK (227 551 1) Prince. 28Jun: Bryan Adams. 11 Jul.
I GLASGOW CONCERT HALL (227 551 1) Four Tops. 14 Apr.
I GLASGOW GREEN ((131
' 5561212)Flcadh.24 May.
I GLASGOW PAVILION (332 1846) Errol Brown. 15 Apr; Charley Pride. 17 Apr.
I GLASGOW PLAZA((131 5576969) EMF. 27 Apr. I GLASGOW SECC ((131 557 6969) Rush. 15 Apr; Diana Ross. 1(1Jun; Roxettc. lSJul; Cliff Richard. 29-31 Oct; Tom Jones. 2 Nov.
i I LIVINGSTON FORUM (557 6969) The Beautiful
South. 21 Apr.
I EDINBURGH PLAYHOUSE (557 259(1) Lyle Lovett. 14 Jun; Crowded 1 louse. 19 Jun; Erasure. 7Jul.
I EDINBURGH QUEEN'S HALL(668 2019) EMF. 26
JAZZ & FOLK
I GLASGOW CONCERT
HALL (227 551 1) Marian
3 Montgomery. 14—15 Apr:
’ Sonny Rollins. 21 Apr;
The Fureys. 24 Apr; Syd Lawrence Orchestra. 22 May.
I EDINBURGH QUEEN'S HALL (668 2(119) Savourna Stevenson & De Dannan. 1(1 Apr; Deborah Henson-Conant. 12 Apr; The McCalmans. 15 Apr; Mulligan Roadshow. 17 Apr; Clan Alba. 19 Apr; Ornctte Coleman &
Prime Time. 27 Apr.
I EDINBURGH USHER HALL (228 1 155) Katia Labcque & John McLaughlin Trio. 2(1Jun. I GLASGOW PLAZA ((131 557 6969) Wolfetones. 3 May.
I GLASGOW CONCERT HALL (227 5511)The Musicals. 3 May; Jesus Christ Superstar Concert. 4 May.
I EDINBURGH PLAYHOUSE (557 259(1) James Last. 4-5 Sep.
I GLASGOW CONCERT HALL(227 551 1) BBC Young Musician Final. 1(1 Apr; Phoenix Choir. 28. 30 Apr; Philharmonic of Novosibirsk. 23 May.
I GLASGOW RSAMD (332 5(157) Scottish Ensemble. 1(1Apr; SCO Brass. 11
I EDINBURGH OUEEN'S HALL(668 2019) Alfred Brendel. 11 Apr: Scottish Ensemble. 12 Apr: Nat Youth Orch. 16 Apr; Evelyn Glennie & Anna Steiger. 29 Apr.
I EDINBURGH USHER HALL(228 1 155) Verdi‘s Requiem (ERCU).9 May; SCO/Rattle. l6Jun. I SUBSCRIPTION SEASONS Programme details and tickets for Royal Scottish Orchestra. Scottish Chamber Orchestra. BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and City of Glasgow Philharmonic Orchestra are available from Ticketccntre. Glasgow (227 5511); Usherllall. Edinburgh (228 l 155); Queen‘s Iiall. Edinburgh (668 2(119). Tickets for Scottish ()pera from Theatre Royal, Glasgow (332 9000); Playhouse. Edinburgh (557 259(1).
30 The List 27 March - 9 April 1992