GLASVEGAS - Cardiff Solus - 4 May 2011

The finger of fate can be particularly fickle in the rock world. Just less than three years ago I watched GLASVEGAS support Ash at a time when Alan McGee has just given his blessing and the first rumblings of them being the “next big thing” was starting to surface. The event was the annual free Cardiff Big Weekend although the sparse, and mostly bemused crowd, seemed unsure of what to make of them.

However, within two months they were back in Cardiff, but with the relentless backing of the NME (the Bible of the hip and trendy), they had now been vaulted into the limelight. Riding high on the back on their well-received eponymous debut album, you couldn’t put a Rizla paper in between the audience members, and the bands future seemed assured.

But thirty months is a long time in Rock’n’Roll and it was with some sadness that I noted on arriving tonight’s gig that it had been downgraded. Originally scheduled for Cardiff University’s largest venue, the Great Hall, it had been bumped to the smaller Solus arena. Even so, this was only half full with a crowd that numbered approximately 500. Was this just a sign of the economic climate, or is the band's career on the wane?

Pix Adam Chalmers - more here

In fairness the stage set up was still pretty impressive with banks of lights arranged liberally over the amplifiers. And when the house lights dimmed the band took to the stage to a warm welcome from the hardcore followers. Leading from the front was James Allan, bedecked in all white except for the obligatory Raybands, closely followed by cousin Rab Allan and bassist Paul Donoghue. However, the night was noteworthy if only for my first glimpse of new Swedish drummer Jonna Löfgren. She seems to be visually attuned with the rest of the band more than her predecessor, although I note she utilises the same method of playing as Caroline McKay i.e. standing up.

The first two numbers come off the new album Euphoric///Heartbreak\\\ with “Pain, Pain, Never Again, swiftly followed by “The World is Yours”. Whilst the overall lighting is relatively dim, James Allan’s microphone lead was luminescent. So whilst you may not have been able to see him clearly you were always aware of his location by the trashing green light snaking around the stage. Their sound is augmented by a fifth member of the band who lurks in the shadow off stage, beefing up the songs with layer upon layer of synth, although mysteriously he is neither introduced nor acknowledged all night.

Just in case minds were starting to wander they bring out “Its My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry” from the first album. Needless to say it is received rapturously. I note that James’ persona seemed more accommodating than in the past. I often thought the band, and Allan in particular, took themselves too seriously and tried to cultivate a sense of professional aloofness. However he seemed to be making a concerted effort to be warm , even humorous, with the audience, albeit that given his thick Glaswegian lilt at times I found his narrative indecipherable He showed his comic timing when apologising that the next two tracks would be from the new album, and venturing the opinion that this might be a good time to have a pee!

Pix Adam Chalmers - more here

And thereby is the problem Glasvegas now have. Whilst the new material is pleasant enough it is nowhere as strong as their first outing and the biggest receptions are reserved for tracks such as “Geraldine”, “Ice Cream Van”, “Go Square Go” and encore “Daddy’s Gone”.

Whether they will be able to overcome a problem that has bedevilled many is open to question. However, they remain a very good live band, tight and well drilled. The sheer size of their Spectoresque Wall of Sound is both invigorating, and at times overpowering. It could also be said that it leaves little room for deviation, and it will be interesting to see if their third album sticks to the tried and tested or branches out into new territory. Still, definitely a gig I enjoyed and a band I would be more than willing to see again, it’s just a shame that at times their lyrics don’t come with sub-titles.