Manic Street Preachers
Familiarity does not breed contempt for the Manic Street Preachers. This was their second stop at the Barrowland in a seven-month span, but if their visit last year was to promote last year's Rewind The Film record, then this gig was the group in career-retrospective mode, from sloganeering glam punks to Britpop anthems and more reflective material.
Yet if certain elements were expected, like James Dean Bradfield pogoing around and an opening that included a thumping Motorcycle Emptiness, then the gig came most alive with more surprising moments. Archives Of Pain, with some superb guitar histrionics from Bradfield, and a crunchy Die In The Summertime were wheeled out, giving the evening some unexpected twists.
The Barrowland sound left some of Bradfield's between-song chatter inaudible, save a song dedication to Ian Rankin and John Burnside, but thankfully it didn't affect the tunes. The familiar hits also seemed to have had some fresh vitality breathed into them, from a snarling Masses Against The Classes to a gigantic version of If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next that appeared more appropriate then ever.
However the set was positioned cleverly, never lingering too long on one style or era, with an acoustic segment offering respite on the sweet melody of This Sullen Welsh Heart, while there was room to look to the future on upcoming tracks Futurology, a straight-ahead rocker, and the Motown bouncy bassline of Europa Geht Durch Mich.
Those tracks suggested a band still with much to offer, as did a storming, snappy version of You Love Us. It was the sound of snot-nosed youthful punk, and although the onstage figures are now more mature, the fire within them seems undiminished.
Various venues, Glasgow
Next time you're hammering nails into a piece of wood, think of the covert musicality: the rough rhythms, the pinging overtones. In a disused underground car park off Renfrew Street, a pair of veteran Japanese improvisers, Akio Suzuki and Aki Onda, unearthed the sounds of industrial hammering and clinking, of bottles dragged across the floor, cassette tapes chucked at the wall and speaker feedback bounced back against their own bodies. They moved with the deliberateness of dancers, by turns spontaneous, urgent and precise, and their chemistry was intriguing: Onda played the volatile troublemaker while Suzuki patiently constructed a makeshift xylophone from a bucket-full of nails then proceeded to play it with spry virtuosity. It was captivating sound art, unfussy and expertly executed.
Suzuki and Onda were the highlight of Counterflows's opening night, clinching the festival's remit of playful invention and broad horizons. Earlier the programme kicked off with eerie, pretty synth pop from The Space Lady, aka Susan Dietrich Schneider, who sings lo-fi Casio-backed covers of Born To Be Wild and I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night decked out in a plastic Viking helmet and flashing lights. Apparently, much of the packed audience at Garnethill Multicultural Centre had come to hear this American cult act; I couldn't quite get the hype, though as symbolic take-off into remote musical orbits it worked neatly enough. More interesting was the beautifully crafted retro electronica of Glasgow's Ela Orleans, matched to grainy, delicate film art by Maja Borg, and the brief late-night appearance at the CCA of the festival's artist in residence Joe McPhee - a raw, visceral blast of saxophone hoots and unbridled vocal howls that duly silenced the (by this point very boozy) throng.
City Hall, Glasgow
DEAR reader, I apologise for this review, but somebody has to say this. Once again, soprano Lisa Milne has pulled out of a concert. That lady has a problem. On Friday night, when she was supposed to sing Mozart's C Minor Mass with the SCO, she called off and a sub was called in. With a colleague, I tried to work out how many concerts the soprano has cancelled in the past 10 years. They are legion. We gave up. I'm afraid she now has a reputation.
Look, you either do the job or you don't. There are hurdles. There are bad colds. You overcome them. People understand. Do you remember conductor Mariss Jansons hanging onto the rail and finishing a show before collapsing from the heart attack he had suffered? Remember the baritone at the Edinburgh Festival last year with a Schumann programme, a throat infection and a voice like a bag of rusty nails? He transferred all his art and intensity on to the text. It was riveting.
We all have our cross to bear. I did Friday's concert with an arthritic back that felt like it was breaking and a bereavement on my shoulders: this morning I bury my brother. I'll say this and no more: Lisa, you are Scotland's greatest soprano; you are much loved; take a deep breath, be strong; and SING.
Fortunately, none of this impeded a fabulous SCO show with Olari Elts at his pragmatic best, conducting a swift and effective Mozart 40 and a darkly profound C minor Mass that felt not like a torso, but absolutely complete, powered by a full voltage SCO Chorus with soprano Elizabeth Watts and glorious substitute soprano Ruby Hughes.
Martin Kershaw Quartet
Glasgow Art Club
It would be fascinating to know Philip Larkin's thoughts concerning a modern-day jazz composer finding inspiration in his poetry.
Larkin, although he professed to be a jazz enthusiast, had fairly well-defined ideas of what constituted good jazz and if Miles Davis's 1960s output was an advancement or 10 too far, then the two Larkin-inspired compositions that saxophonist Martin Kershaw played here might not have been considered compliments by the great man himself.
Kershaw's muse is triggered by a wide range of literature and art and this gives his writing a correspondingly wide range of moods and approaches.
Some, such as the opening piece, The Howness, can be quite daunting, even unsettling on first listen and he might have been better starting off with the uptempo, more straightahead You Can't Win, which began the second half and showcased his quartet as a thoroughly responsive and persuasive unit.
As it was, the evening as a whole was a mixed success. The quartet didn't always play at a volume to suit the room and drummer Alyn Cosker, an undoubtedly magnificent talent whose stretching of time is always fascinating, was at times a touch overzealous.
At its best, though, there was much to admire. Kershaw's writing can be lovely, as on the gentle, dramatically building Two and the Larkin-derived Slow Dying, and his improvising on alto and soprano was always expressive and well thought through. The Mervyn Peake influenced Steerpike was a genuinely exciting parting shot, with Cosker, pianist Tom Gibbs and bassist Euan Burton providing creative impetus as they had earlier as Kershaw reimagined Charlie Parker's Steeplechase with a New Orleans swagger.