Live Review: Glass Animals with Atom Tree at Glasgow CCA – 17th October 2014

By on Tuesday, 28th October 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

I love Glasgow. It’s definitely surpassed Manchester in my favourite cities in the UK. I’m always pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of the people in a town that really shouldn’t be so friendly; if you kept your eyes to the sky above, often cloud-filled and threatening to rain if it’s not raining already. I still remember the first band interview I ever did, 5 years ago in Nottingham with Friendly Fires on their tour bus. They said they’d had an outdoor picnic before meeting up with me, as it was so unusual for Notts to be that sunny, so surely I must have brought the sunshine over from America with me.

My gift seems to have worked for this last visit to Glasgow too, as the only times when I was in Glasgow that it actually rained was after I’d gotten back from Edinburgh to see Fatherson and Model Aeroplanes Thursday night (see that review here) and after I’d emerged into the night after this show Friday night. The rain, it appeared, seemed to understand exactly how I was feeling at that moment.

The Centre for Contemporary Arts, known by everyone in town by its neat acronym CCA, is a world-class museum. Its location in Glasgow makes perfect sense: in a city with so many visionaries and creative types, you need a place like this to take these folks’ cutting edge ideas and shout them to the heavens, so to speak. I’d been promised by a local manager friend of mine that the place was gorgeous and the Glass Animals show there would be unmissable. So off I went.

First up were support act Atom Tree, local to Glasgow. Live, they’re an electronic three-piece, but Atom Tree is essentially the project of 23-year old Glaswegian Shaun Canning, who both writes and produces the act’s music. While this isn’t all uncommon to have an electronic act to be run behind the scenes in essence and to have a beguiling female vocalist out front – think Germany’s Claire, and to somewhat lesser extent, NO CEREMONY/// – Julie Knox fills her role as frontwoman well. In only black and metallic colours, she could be the ice queen of your dreams or your nightmares, whatever your poison. Mick Robertson joins Canning’s project live as drummer, choosing standing over sitting over his percussive equipment (not a full drum kit, mind) for a more dynamic presence.

Banter between songs by either Knox or Canning was minimal, but that makes total sense after the fact, now that I know Atom Tree is Canning’s baby. As a result though, I don’t know the titles of the songs they played, though I can say that I quickly became mesmerised by the Atom Tree sound. Knox’s vocals drip off of ‘See the Light’, nonchalant as she questions coldly, “our love is only real if you feel it inside / whatcha gonna do if I turn around and tell you I’m not in love with you?” The words pair perfectly with Canning’s spare synth and piano notes, as if sympathetic to the singer’s own conflict on how she feels.

Atoms are the basic building blocks of life and trees represent life and strength, so the act’s name is entirely appropriate, as Canning favours a less than more approach to his songwriting, yet without sacrificing might. In these days of overblown production in nearly every genre, it’s truly refreshing to see an electronic producer show such restraint. Major key and bombastic instrumental ‘Die For Your Love’, a track that was released to the blogosphere’s acclaim in late 2013, doesn’t suffer from lack of vocal content at all; if anything, it proves Canning’s talent for developing and creating the kind of epic soundscape that most DIY bedroom laptop producers can only dream of.

The bands I met and talked with on my trip in other cities are all in agreement that they look at Glass Animals‘ recent success in America with wide-eyed wonderment. It’s always confused me why a band will succeed in one market and not another; while I predicted the band would do well in America solely on the r&b / hip hop flavour Dave Bayley has managed to infuse into all of their songs, I also thought they’d do equally as well in the UK. I also saw them play Liverpool Magnet on this tour a week prior, and while the response was good, the energy of the crowd wasn’t anywhere near what I’d witnessed on their prior visits to Washington in July and September. Leave it to the Glaswegians to sell out the CCA and give the band, at the end of the UK leg of their European tour, a proper sendoff. The only thing missing were those 8-foot tall palm trees.

If you had the chance to see any of the shows on this UK tour, I’d bet a million (Scottish) pounds Glasgow was the one to be at. Appreciative punters yelled and whistled with approval. They stamped their feet on the all too posh, all-wood floor (apologies to the CCA, I don’t think they knew what they were in for when they booked this gig). They sang along – loudly – to ‘Gooey’. Bayley seemed impressed by the crowd reaction, complimenting the grooving of one of my new local friends down the front who seemed to have gone into a trance upon hearing the band play live for a second time. Another time, Bayley praised the city as a whole for their dancing ability. Maybe my impression that all musically-inclined Glaswegians can be found in their bedrooms late on a Sunday night with a bottle of whisky and The Twilight Sad spinning on their turntables is unfounded?

Unquestionably, the moment of the night was when Glasgow got their first chance to lay their eyes and ears on Glass Animalslive cover version of Kanye West’s ‘Love Lockdown’. I thought I would be surrounded by men and women fainting from the spectacle and for sure, there were some weak knees around me. But somehow they all righted and a carnival atmophere endured when encore closer and all-around crowd pleaser ‘Pools’ started up.

Certainly, ‘Zaba’ is going to be a hard act to follow, and so is its accompanying live show. Will Glass Animals suffer from the difficult second album? We’ll have to wait and see, but if Bayley’s assertion to Clash magazine that he’s already been writing new material while on the road and “When we do get to do another record, though, it should be quite quick…”, it will be sooner rather than later when we’ll know.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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