Edinburgh: La Belle Angele, Wed 29 Apr at is v: a
Superstar frontman Joe McAlinden may have been around the block a bit, but with his band's current ascendency after years in the musical wilderness, it looks like the final piece of the post-Bellshill guitar boogie boys band jigsaw is at last complete. For while Superstar’s shimmeringly listener- friendly Palm Tree album has already won them plenty of friends, it’s on their seemingly never-ending tour that they really shine. Tonight is their third Edinburgh gig in as many months, and from the moment they take the stage it’s clear they’re head and shoulders above their last packed gig at the Attic. They're still not perfect but practice has made them as tight as the proverbial gnat's chuff.
It's McAlinden's plaintive, high-
pitched vocal that makes everything work, moving from acoustic choir-boy croon to
yearningly strung-out romantic all in the one song. All the over- familiar classic reference points are in tow, from Big Star (quelle surprise) to Brian Wilson, but there
are also surprises of a decidedly AOR persuasion. For when Big Joe perches over the piano for the very lovely ‘Breathing Space’. he sounds for all the world like the ghost of Freddie Mercury singing Dean Friedman's back- catalogue. Which is meant as a compliment, by the way.
Elsewhere there are rocky songs and quiet songs, ones to sit with by the fireside and ones to make your spine shiver. There are even ones that sound too formulaic for comfort, but their sheer sincerity makes you cuddle up to them regardless, as McAlinden struggles to articulate
every sliver of self-doubt.
Don't get the impression though that Superstar are in
Superstar's Joe McAlinden: 'grown-up, late-starting, underachievers. Bless 'em.
any way wrapped up with the god-awful new wave of po-faced pomp. There's self-deprecatory irony in the band’s very name, while tonight's panto-style between- song banter couldn't ever detract from their finest moment, ‘Life Is Elsewhere'. And who else could get away with a song title lifted from a Milan Kundera novel without sounding pretentious, naff or both? Superstar sing anthems then, not so much for doomed and spotty youth, but for grown-up, late-starting, under-achievers still in touch with their ridiculous side.
Like them, Superstar will never ever be cool, rich or
famous. But they’ll do alright. (Neil Cooper)
The OIThe Crocketts
Glasgow: King Tut's, Thu 7 May ****
To get straight to the mint, The O, on this showing at any rate, are the closest thing to genius as has graced a Glasgow stage for, oh Christ, maybe a year and three months now. Maybe, godammit, more. Tiny little fellows they are, too, this obliquely named New York trio (The Story of O? A perfect smoke-ring in a sunny room?
44 THE usr 14—28 May l998
The Crocketts: not tonight
infinite zero7 A yawn at hometime? We Just don’t know), With trousers way too big for them The O are who the Fun Lovrn’ Criminals may once have dreamed of becoming, but could never possibly be because club feet don’t fit so snug in baseball boots; the offspring of the Beastie Boys With their East Coast rhyming and hardcore leanings and Prince With his psychedelic candy and West Coast dreamings. They resurrect the ancient, headshake ‘whoo' of Misery-period
Beatles and the sharp fleeting stink of Hamburg leather is palatable and understood They even cover lvlontell Jordan And they have their own songs, too' It really doesn’t get any better than llllS, Tonight The O are so good it almost puts you off seeking out their debut album because you rust know there‘s no way it can measure up to the memory But, hey, who knows
Headliners the Crocketts come off badly after such sublime support FurroWing a curiously iinengaging Pogues-do-Radiohead furrow, the group are an intense enough experience, and play With fury -- it is, however, an intensity that comes off as studied, a bad thing in this case, as do the l'm-a-bit-mad-meand-ldon't-like- myself-that-much-neither mannerisms of frontrnan Davey Crockett The gulf yawning between the two bands is made eVident in their approach to cover versions ~ The 0 rock it and relax, The Crocketts take on ’Rhinestone Cowboy' as thrash parody, failing to realise that Glenn Campbell sits far closer to the chilling heart of life than they Will ever. This is the sort of thing Splodgenessabounds used to do (Damien Love)
Glasgow: The Ferry, Thu 7 May
1k 1k 1k it
'It’s like a happy family, this,’ says the woman in the white sun With the short dark hair standing centre stage. 'I mean, WOiild y0u shout at Tori Amos, "SWing your pants" 7' she asks her norsy, enthusiastic throng of mainly (but by no means exclusively) female devotees, before relenting and adding, ’You probably would I think I would too.’
Horse has put her finger on it. The atmosphere aboard the Ferry tonight is like that of a well-Oiled bonding session, With Horse as guest of honour rather than ViSiting star. Even more so than most gigs by local heroes, you get the feeling that the figure in the spotlight knows most of the audience by sight and perhaps half of them by name. The mood of celebration, identification and even kinship is intense. From that cheery banter, she slips into ’Ship To Shore’, the kind of aching ballad at which she excels and which emphaSises that her current acoustic set-up With piano, stand—up bass and strings was the Wisest move she could have made Her vc)ice seems far more at home here, and tar freer to trace the contours of epic love songs, than in her former rock band set-up.
Purists might look down their noses at her Jazzier numbers, but they'd be missing the point -— her delivery is so soulful and convrnciiig that she gets straight to the heart of the matter It’s at these times that the liubbub is stilled, though a chorus of approving Whoops invariably rises from around the room to fill in any pauses.
Torch singer credentials thus impeccably established, the minority shouting for something more danceable are eventually rewarded by a percussionist injecting a modest rhythmic swrng to the proceedings, and everyone leaves happy. Except, perhaps, those who sense ITTJUSIICG in the state of affairs that keeps such a powerful and affecting singer one of Glasgow’s well-kept secrets.
Horse: getting to the heart of the matter, neigh problem
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STAR RATINGS * * i k * Unmissable « at r» it Very good 4:- i it Worth a shot * * Below average it You've been warned