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BBC Radio 6music Festival 2017, Various Venues, Glasgow - Day 3

  • Published in Live

It's the final day of the 6music Festival and the headliners tonight have been going for over 35 years and are known entirely for their original material. Depeche Mode made their breakthrough with songs written by Vince Clarke, who went on to form Erasure, and subsequently Martin Gore took over the songwriting mantle. The support in Barrowlands for them tonight is Unkle DJ, James Lavelle. Best known for that partnership with DJ Shadow, Lavelle is renowned behind the decks in his own right. The ballroom is an intimate venue by the standards of the Basildon quartet. They have been stadium and arena headliners since the ‘80s.

While the anticipation builds for that Los Angeles based soul singer Kadhja Bonet starts proceedings over in Saint Luke's. Her debut album came out in November. Her father is an opera singer and her mother is a musician so Bonet, or one of her six siblings, was bound to end up following in their footsteps. She appears with a double cutaway electric guitar, and her voice interweaves smoothly with the jazzy chords she plays. Her backing band is a single guitarist who pitches in some harmonies, but Bonet holds the formerly sacred congregation in communion with her seemingly effortless vocal. Saint Luke's feels like a New York basement in the thrall of her voice.

All of which is only a distraction from the main event. There is a ruck on the way in. There's a crowd across the street holding signs requesting tickets. The first twenty people through the door have travelled across the continent for the opportunity to catch the Essex boys in this relatively intimate environment. Next, a maniacal crowd of Scottish DM fans enter. There's pushing and fighting to get upstairs and stake out a place at the barrier. It's two hours to the headline show and already 500 people are packed tightly in front of the stage. You have to feel some sympathy for James Lavelle playing to such a partisan crowd. Metallica played for a decade without an opening act because the audience would just boo them into submission, but I'm sure nothing like that will happen tonight.

Any such fears are allayed the moment he steps foot on stage. Though the audience are here for the following set, they cheer politely when Lavelle appears. He mixes spoken word samples, soulful vocal tracks, and lethargic beats. Anyone familiar with his Unkle work will know the type of thing to expect. The idea of paying to see a DJ is a foreign concept to me so I merely stake out my place for the main act. A sample from Queens Of The Stone Age's ‘I Appear Missing’ plays over some ethereal piano eliciting a reaction from the crowd but the general consensus is that they'd rather hear the original.

The crowd now stretches from the barrier to the wheelchair access platform at the back. The lightshow is impressive but cannot hide the fact that the music is quite dull. There is no motion in the crowd at all. People are not being allowed out to smoke and the German contingent are making their displeasure felt. And they are absolutely right; this would not happen in Germany. The impatience becomes palpable. James Lavelle raises his arms and claps rhythmically, but no one follows his lead. A remix of ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ garners some attention and there is a cheer when he finishes. In standup comedy terms; he died. Painful to watch.

As the crew clear away his gear, the tension ratchets up a notch. The room is filled to bursting with fans of all ages. There are vintage t-shirts rubbing shoulders with hip young kids but all are wound tight in expectation. The roadies, checking the lines, get cheers and sustained applause. When Lauren Laverne appears, the cries are deafening. It’s their first time playing this venue since 1984. When they come onstage there is applause, there are screams, there are tears. They don’t bother with an introduction but go straight in to the first song, ‘Going Backwards’. Lead singer Dave Gahan doesn’t need to ask for applause. Whenever he stops singing, it spontaneously erupts.

Gahan, guitarist /keyboardist Martin Gore, and keyboardist, Andy Fletcher are expanded to a five piece with the addition of a touring drummer and yet another synth player. Gahan struts about like he owns the stage and, during ‘So Much Love’, he truly does. With his leather jerkin and slicked back hair, he looks every bit the rock star. He goes full-on Jagger for ‘A Pain That I’m Used To’ and the audience sing it back. The opening riff of ‘World In My Eyes’ elicits the biggest reaction yet. It's a Gore-era tune that retains the catchiness and pop synth lines of the Vince Clarke era.

Gahan departs and Gore takes centre stage for ‘Home’. The crowd repeat the closing refrain a capella after the band finish. Over and over. The most recent single follows, with the whole band singing, “Where's the revolution/C'mon people you're letting me down”. ‘Barrel Of A Gun’ is a song I've waited twenty years to hear live and it doesn’t disappoint. Filthy, sleazy, and borderline mentally ill, it is the centre piece of their late '90s opus, Ultra.


The crowd out-sing the band for ‘Personal Jesus’ and the extended refrain of “Reach out/Touch faith” has people turning to their partners, and to strangers, and hugging them. The inevitable ‘Enjoy The Silence’ forms the encore and I've rarely seen a reception like it. It takes nearly an hour for my breathing to regularise. It'll be a couple of days before my muscles stop hurting but that is the type of gig that reminds you of the power of music and why you fell in love with it in the first place. What a way to end the festival.


BBC Radio 6music Festival 2017, Various Venues, Glasgow - Day 2

  • Published in Live

The sun is blinding today in Glasgow. Apollo shines his light on the 6music Festival. The blessing of the gods follows us to the Barrowland ballroom. The Barras Market is in full swing and American singer Haley is talking to us after lunch. The Minnesota based singer plays Saint Luke's around the corner tonight with Sacred Paws, The Lemon Twigs and Car Seat Headrest. We'll be at Barrowlands too for Bonobo, Thundercat, Loyle Carner and Songhoy Blues.

And that's where we'll start tonight's adventure, with Loyle Carner it the main room. Security is tight here and given recent events, we'll just have to tolerate it. The young English lad performs vocal gymnastics over the mellow but effective backing of his DJ. The bass makes the jelly in our eyeballs tremble. Carner lived in Glasgow when he was younger, he even owns a kilt.

His autobiographical lyrics are a million miles from the sparkle and bling of some of his American counterparts; particularly when he's dressed in slacks and a woolly jumper. He carries a towel like Vegas-era Elvis. From up front at the barrier, he’s an impressive performer too. I don't see much hip-hop but I could be converted.

Over to Saint Luke's for Sacred Paws and this place makes a great first impression. You come around the corner from Barrowlands and there it is; a standalone deconsecrated church with gothic ornamentation. Inside, the stage has been expanded to accommodate the BBC logistics. The drum riser sits at the foot of a set of organ pipes and between two stained glass windows, each about five metres tall.

The start is delayed and music plays over the PA. Sleeper’s ‘Inbetweener’ followed by REM’s ‘Don't Go Back To Rockville’, one could put up with this. Eventually Liz Kershaw appears to introduce the band. They play danceable music with tight harmonies that would make The Bee Gees sit up and take notice. The guitars and drums unleash rhythms that are somewhere between math rock, Bloc Party and Paul Simon's Graceland. There are moments of early Vampire Weekend punkiness blended with tribal beats and glimpses of The Raincoats. They’ve a debut album coming out and from this display it will be well worth a listen.

Barrowlands has filled up rightly for Californian bassist Thundercat whose latest solo album has taken the world by storm. He's known for his signature six string bass, 50% more than the average, and for his work with acts as diverse as Suicidal Tendencies and Kendrick Lamar. It's too jazzy and self-conscious for my liking. You'll pass fifty similar acts at Glastonbury without pausing for too long. Too much of it sounds like the satirical “Jazz Club” from ‘90s sketch programme The Fast Show.

So with that, it's back to Saint Luke's for Haley. The sun has set so the huge neon Barrowlands sign has been turned on. It's quite a sight. Saint Luke's is lit up in the festival livery too. We spoke to Haley earlier today. This is the start of a European tour for her and she's a big fan of Car Seat Headrest who play this stage later tonight. She's played NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert and Later...With Jools Holland so the 6music Festival will be familiar territory.

It’s difficult to categorise her music. She's creatively restless and mercurial. The set opens with a torch song sung to a drum machine and sweeping guitars while the second is up-tempo rock in the vein of her other band Gramma’s Boyfriend. She's working on the third album of that band as well as a collection of short stories, and that’s on top of her solo stuff. You can read that interview here later in the week.

Described as desert blues Mali's Songhoy Blues are going down a storm in Barrowlands. They've a heavy dub reggae influence making them reminiscent of The Clash. They have fans in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Strokes and it's obvious why. There are a lot of shared influences. Lead singer Aliou Toure dances hypnotically between verses, eliciting uproarious cheering from the audience. Three songs in they are joined by a brass section for a song from their new album. The rolling bass and the horns make it sound like Level 42 with Songhai lyrics. They sing in English too and Toure straps on a Les Paul for an old favourite. They've a following here in Glasgow and it gets a massive reception.

Across the way in Saint Luke's The Lemon Twigs are having an extensive warm up before starting their set. The New York four piece are suffering technical difficulties but manage to overcome them and deliver some infectious harmonies. They mix rock ‘n’ roll, doo wop, and musical theatre. There are moments when it is hard to believe that there are only four of them on stage. Jim Steinman could use these guys for Bat Out Of Hell 4, provided the songs were up to scratch. There's a touch of Freddie Mercury to it too.

Barrowlands is eagerly awaiting tonight's headliner. Bonobo's sixth album, Migration, came out in January. He's someone who has passed me by over the years so I'll be interested to see if he can win over a sceptic, as Future Islands did last night. Over a steady drone the band enter the fray one at a time over the course of several minutes, each adding their own contribution to the cacophony. The six players assemble in a semi-circle at the front of the stage, facing the audience.

After five minutes, there is a break and they begin the next song but there is too little happening in the tunes to hold the interest. This is headphone music being played in a cavernous room. Guest vocalist Szjerdene helps add some variety and interest but it just doesn't work in this environment. It's a pity to end the day in disappointment but with Loyle Carner, Songhoy Blues, Haley, Sacred Paws and The Lemon Twigs, this has still been a good day for music.

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