The evening starts with four-piece, The Miss’s. A very simple set up; one seated guitarist, two seated singers and one singer left standing and looking ever-so-slightly out of place. From the get-go, the two singers-in-the-middle look bored already, making little to no eye contact with anyone. Vocally, they’re a bit bland and lifeless but they do have nice voices, I suppose. And I think that’s the problem – it’s just nice. The harmonies are pretty and a little too sweet in places but there isn’t really anything all that remarkable about them. It’s hard to tell whether or not it’s nerves or inexperience, or whether they really are just plain bored. It looks and sounds as if they’re just going through the motions. The guitarist is, unfortunately, easily over-looked but actually she’s really very good. She’s the only one actually showing any kind of emotion, and is quite possibly the most talented of them all. The crowd seem pleased with them, although said crowd is rather thin on the ground. On closer listening, the singer on her feet is by far the better vocalist. Perhaps I was too quick the judge the others. Perhaps, if they too were standing, they’d be louder, stronger, more confident and better all round. Somehow I can’t imagine it, though. Ah, the obligatory hand claps. I wondered when they’d show up. The only trouble is you can’t actually hear them. Like everything else about them so far, there’s no effort behind them, leaving The Miss’s a little lacklustre and making me wonder if they’d really rather be somewhere else instead. The crowd seem to be sensing it, too. Attentions have been diverted and conversations begin to bubble, and the girls are quickly forgotten. Their last track of the evening is more upbeat and much brighter although it fails to win back the crowd; The Miss’s are now nothing but background noise.
The main support comes from sextet Quickbeam. They’re impressive just setting up! A cello, a violin, a double bass and something I later learned was an Indian harmonium… and I’m pretty sure I spied a trombone in there somewhere. This is going to be good, I can tell! The violin and the cello open and the buzz of the crowd is reduced to a hush and then to absolute silence within a matter of seconds. And then one by one, layer by layer – the drums, the guitar, the harmonium, followed by gorgeously sweet and seductive vocals. The crowd has instantly increased and no wonder! I was wrong before; it’s not good at all. Quickbeam are so much more than I ever imagined; already they are absolutely stunning. Sound-wise there could perhaps be a little more in the backing vocals; they’re barely audible even though the crowd is still stunned into absolute silence, however, in terms of the music itself I simply cannot find a single fault anywhere. There are many elements and layers together creating one complete, gorgeous and spirit-lifting sound, despite the sparse and minimalist qualities. By the second track, the harmonies and backing vocals are spot on. ‘Out To Space’ is a beautiful, poignant and emotive track; light and dark in equal measures all at once with a alluring, haunting twist, stirring the mind and the soul. Keeping up with Quickbeam is quite a task. With almost every track, something changes. The female/male vocalists switch back and forth, guitars are swapped from person to person, the double bass is switched for the trombone, drums and keys alternate… It’s confusing as much as it’s fascinating and the crowd are damn-near hypnotised. The bar is now almost empty, too. Evidently, the sweet siren call and beauty cannot be ignored, and nor should it. In short, they’re truly magnificent and are most certainly a band worth watching. I will be amazed if 2012 doesn’t bring something very special for Quickbeam.
The Birthday Suit practically burst onto the stage and Rod Jones greets the crowd with a cheery “Thanks for coming,” before launching into ‘Sing It Alone’ and apparently experience sound problems, though I can’t say I noticed myself… They start it again anyway. ‘Sing It Alone’, as with the recorded version, it always seems right on the very edge of tipping over into all-out rock, only it’s far more electrically charged and packed with punch in this setting than with the album. The same can be said for ‘Do You Ever’ – a loud, bold, bright and upbeat offering. It’s clear that, as stunning as the album is, it’s not a patch here. The Birthday Suit need to be heard live for you to fully appreciate them and see the potential. Again, it’s difficult to ignore the presence of Idlewild- you can definitely hear it in The Birthday Suit, only it seems to be and have so much more than Just Idlewild. The crowd seem very pleased and look constantly on the verge of breaking into a dance, only they never quite manage it, which is both surprising and disappointing. Scottish crowds are well known for showing people how to really party. Maybe it’s just because it’s a Sunday, with Monday and the working week creeping ever closer. Looks like I’m dancing on my own, then. No bother. The atmosphere is thick and charged with such a buzz that you can almost see and reach out and touch, and yet nobody does. Another track opens with loud, fast-paced drums, and is packed with energy throughout… Apparently it “sounds like Placebo”, says Jones himself. I can’t help but suppress a giggle, but actually, it kind of does sound like Placebo. That’s not entirely a bad thing, really. At least I don’t think so and the crowd don’t seem too bothered by it. Sadly for me, Glasgow’s public transport on a Sunday evening means I have to leave now. The last line I hear before I have to hurtle outside is “Everybody tells you that it won’t last long.” Excuse me while I cry and grumble in the corner…
The Birthday Suit are like happiness and fun and all that is good in the world personified. How one can see and hear them and not crack even the tiniest smile is beyond me.