Friday, January 09, 2009

Glasvegas / Carl Barat @Popscene, 8 January 2009

Photo of Glasvegas at Manchester Academy 2 by Danny North.

Popscene is a smallish club near the ballpark. That area is pretty quiet after dark and it was easy to park by the big new Borders, which was nearly empty. I had to wait in line for 45 minutes although there seemed no reason for this delay. Only rock audiences will put with this sort of crap. I also had to wait in front of someone who was bragging about having just seen a band called “Echo” in New York. Eventually I got inside to find a load of youngsters, some of whom looked like they were pressing the 18+ age limit. Some were trying to dance. The DJ played Teenage Kicks to no big reaction. The DJ played the Strokes and they started to move. The sound system was played too loud: enough to be distorted. There were two soundless video projectors displaying 80’s kitsch on the walls. For some reason they disrespectfully kept these running when the bands are playing. There was an enormous pillar in the middle of the room which blocked my view.

Carl Barat plays several songs by his old band the Libertines. Without a band to watch I struggle to pay attention. Barat seems to have had enough of the mythology of rock. He just wants to play his songs. Occasionally he gets animated and there are flashes of energy. He mumbles to the crowd. He really needs a strong partner to fight against.

Glasvegas embrace rock. They wear black. The singer wears sunglasses. They sound a bit the Jesus and Mary Chain crossed with the Ronettes. When they’re not providing a wall of sound they make some atmospheric noises. Their songs are interesting, several seem ready for the crowd to sing along with, but this doesn’t happen until near the end.

So one performer rejects the rock image while one embraces it. It is a function of the artist to sift originality from clichés. By engaging with history Glasbegas have a chance of creating something new. By playing "Be my Baby" they make this engagement explicit. Hopefully Carl Barat will similarly regain his muse.

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