Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Glasgow to Seattle - Glasvegas Live in "The Emerald City" Once More

Glasgow is a long way from Seattle. Geographically.

In other ways, however, they ain't so far apart. Perceived to be cold, gray, depressing and spawning very good musical acts are among the common traits the two cities share.

So perhaps it is not too surprising that Glasgow-based band Glasvegas has, over the years, come to Seattle four times to play live gigs. Ventures to the States by the group are not too common, but four times in Seattle between Jan. 2009 and Feb. 2014 is a pretty good clip. Perhaps they feel a bit at home here. Hey, even their poster is gray.

It just so happens that Glasvegas is one of my favorite bands of recent years and I've been lucky enough to see each of those four performances in Seattle - including last Friday at the Columbia City Theater. You can read my reviews of two of those HERE (2009) and HERE (2011). You can also see the band perform a song on CBS's Late Night with Craig Ferguson in the early morning hours of March 5 by clicking HERE.

Now, the location for this Feb. 2014 show in Seattle was a bit of a change up for the size of venue most bands like Glasvegas play in. Indeed, most groups with their status play at a joint like Neumo's (as Glasvegas did itself twice) or maybe the Showbox Market. But for whatever reason, this time around they were booked in at the smaller and more out of the way CCT. Other than a bit longer of a drive from my Ballard-area home to get there, the size and location turned out to be great. A very good band, up close and personal in a smaller space that sounded good. Oh, and in case you haven't been there in a while, the Columbia City neighborhood has - for better or worse - filled in now with a bunch of good restaurants, pubs and boutique shops.

Below is my review of the evening - before, during and after the gig:

Before the Show
A buddy and I hit one of those restaurants before the show, an Italian place called La Medusa. Good food people! Next, we walked the block up to the theater to see what was happening around there only to run right into Glasvegas bassist Paul Donoghue outside having a cigarette. We said hello, thanked him for coming all the way to Seattle and he told us that they almost hadn't made it because they were driving in from Minnesota across the north of the USA and got caught in a blizzard. He said that they only pulled into the parking lot of the theater at about 5:30 p.m. Wow.

We thanked Paul again and went inside. Not much happening in the bar. We pushed on into the theater and saw that the opening band, The Ceremonies, was on stage performing. We knew it'd be about an hour before Glasvegas came on and we decided to go back out and check out a pub we'd walked past on the way. We had a pint, talked about whatever and after a while decided it was time to go back.

Our arrival back at the theater was well timed as it was probably only 10-15 minutes until it was "Glasvegas time." We re-entered the performance space and made our way down about halfway to the stage...which in this venue is still really close to the stage. From the balcony/runway that runs above and along one side of the theater, four darkly dressed figures strolled toward the stage above us and then sauntered out front stage center.

The Gig

The band quickly kicked into the first song from their new album, a number called "Later...When the TV Turns to Static." See my review of the full album, also of that name, HERE. From there, Glasvegas launched into a 90 minute set featuring songs taken from their three albums with an emphasis, of course, on material from their most recent release.
Glasvegas on stage in Seattle at the Columbia City Theater - Feb. 28, 2014
Interestingly, main man James Allan was back to wearing black - donning a black leather motorcycle jacket and black trousers. The rest of the band wore their usual black attire. On their last our, he reversed his normal color choice and wore all white - I think as a comment on the generally positive tone and outlook of their second album, Euphoric Heartbreak.

Since this was a small venue, the band was right there up close. As a consequence, the time between songs lent itself to a more natural opportunity for lead man James Allan to converse, joke and say things to the audience - which he happily did.

This is an element of the Glasvegas - and perhaps James himself - persona that has grown and matured over the years. In their first two shows of theirs that I saw, the stance was not to talk to the audience at all...just go on, play the songs (and they did that well) and not say anything to the audience. Good but not too endearing. I like a band or a performer who is confident and willing to engage an audience as it shows they care about their fans and makes the performance more customized or unique. Well, no problem with that at this show. Allan talked to the audience between almost all the songs.

Beyond thank yous to the audience and saying names of songs, some of the banter that I recall included:
  • Allan asking the house lighting operator to dim the lights down because he thought they were too bright and not appropriate for the mood they were going for. This inspired a bit of light hearted back and forth with the audience too.
  • An introduction by Allan to the song "Lonesome Swan" in which we learned that the lyrics were, in part, inspired by a visit by Allan to a park lake somewhere that had those animal shaped paddle boats for rent. Apparently, when he was there, all the boats were out except one shaped like a swan...making it a lonesome swan. This got Allan thinking and produced a really good song...not literally about a paddle boat mind you.
  • At one point, Allan decided to take off his probably now very hot black leather jacket. But, before he did he asked the audience if they could identify the face of the person stenciled in white on the lower front portion of the jacket. To me, it looked like Jerry Garcia or Greg Almond. To be honest, I did not hear what James said when he told the name...both because of the crowd noise and his thick Scottish accent. I think he said, "Jerry Allan." A relative? I could be and probably am wrong.
  • Between one of the songs, Allan bent down to high five or grab hands with a few of the fans right up front. Apparently one of them must have put out a fist in anticipation of a reciprocal fist bump from Allan. After standing up, Allan told the crowd about how that prior to this very tour in the US, he had no idea what a fist bump was. He said that earlier in the tour someone stuck their fist out and he had no idea what to do with it...oddly grabbing and shaking it like a normal hand shake. Now, of course, he knows.
Overall, I would say the performance was top notch. The band were into the gig, giving their performance
Allan and Donoghue on stage in Seattle
with energy and effort - James Allan pacing the middle of the stage and singing out loud and strong, Rab Allan making the most of his stage right space, drummer Jonna Lofgren bashing her drum kit from her normal standing position and Paul Donoghue holding down the fort on bass over at stage left. The sound was really good in this small but acoustically excellent space and, as mentioned, the lighting and effects were minimal...which worked well in this case.

After performing their set and a short break before an encore, Glasvegas ended the show with a stonking version of their tune "Lots Sometimes." This is a song that starts slow and picks up pace steadily to the point where the last, say, third of the song is rocking loud and fast. An excellent way to end the show on a high, rocking note!

Below is a list of songs I recall them playing in total. I think I've captured them all here, but the ordering of them is rough based on a one week old memory. For sure the opener and closer are in the correct order:

Later...When the TV Turns To Static
Lonesome Swan
Dream, Dream, Dreaming
Ice Cream Van
The World Is Yours
It's My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry
All I Want Is My Baby
Go Square Go
Daddy's Gone
Lots Sometimes

Saying Hi to the Band After
And with that, the band exited the way they came in...up the stairs and across the elevated balcony above the stage on the wall. Most of the crowd filtered out, but I had seen a small sign saying that the band would be out to greet fans and sign merchandise after the show. My buddy and I decided to cool our heels in the bar for a bit and then see if we could say hello to Glasvegas after a bit. This we did successfully and were able to speak directly with each member of the band. My feeling on these type of things is that I would rather actually talk with a band member than ask them to sign something for me as my interaction with them. The later seems very self-serving and limits any communication around a physical object rather than something you might say or learn. So, as usual, I did not bring anything for band members to sign.

To James Allan, I wanted to let him know that as an older fan of rock and roll, I really appreciated what he and his band were doing and that it gave me hope for rock...and I did tell him that after thanking him for the show and for coming all the way to Seattle. He greeted my statement with a quick wide-eyed look and a big hug for both me and my friend. You could tell he really appreciated it. A sweet gesture of thanks.

For Rab Allan, we told him we had been to each of the four Seattle gigs for Glasvegas. He asked us which ones we liked best and said he thought the one on this night and their very first show in Seattle at Chop Suey were the best.

With Joanna Lofgren and band manager Denise (also James Allan's sister), we received confirmation that the band had indeed been stuck in a blizzard on their drive from Minneapolis to Seattle - to the degree that they had to pull off the road and wait it out. Lofgren said she did take a short walk around the neighborhood before the show, but did not get to enjoy what she had heard was a very nice day in Seattle. We assured her that Vancouver, BC - their next stop - was a great city and wished her a chance to get out and about up there to see some of the northwest.

Since we'd already spoken to Donoghue, and because it was getting late, we called it a night. With a quick tap on James's shoulder on our way out as a final thank you...we took off into the night and home.

Glasvegas continued on their U.S. tour, heading first north...then Portland and California. Will they be back soon - with new music or a tour? I hope so. This is a band that continues to grown and do interesting things. And, they're nice people to boot.'s hoping they keep on doing what they're doing and we get a chance to see them again in the not too distant future.

NOTE: Photographs of Glasvegas on stage in this blog post were taken by Marc Osborn. Copyright for those pictures is owned by Marc Osborn and now use of the images for any purpose is permitted without prior written permission from Marc Osborn.

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