City and Colour @ O2 Academy, Glasgow

I’m not sure what’s happened since I last (and first) saw City and Colour play at the sparsely filled King Tuts tent at T in the Park 2011, but the O2 Academy was busier and more boisterous last night than I’ve seen it in the last year, save maybe for Counting Crows.

Dallas Green’s City and Colour seem to have exploded in popularity; perhaps off the back of their successful stint supporting Biffy Clyro and the release of their fourth album The Hurry and the Harm last year.

For a set which consisted largely of songs dealing with death and loneliness the reaction of the audience to each track was one of almost boyband proportions of screaming.

One of the few things I find difficult about listening to City and Colour is that I’m not particularly fond of Dallas’s voice.  I can’t explain exactly why, but it really begins to grate on me after a few songs.  This wasn’t so much the case last night as the guitars and drums shared an equal stage with Dallas’s voice.  There was almost an edgier, rockier sound to the music; almost as if to compete with the spectacular stage lighting and dry ice.  There were extended jams, guitar solos and lengthy bouts of wailing from Green:  this was a big sound for a big show.

Everything sounded bigger, louder and grander.  Dallas’s harmonica echoed painfully on Body in a Box and guitars dominated Sorrowing Man in an epic finale to the main set.  The Girl was, naturally, the evening’s most popular singalong opportunity.  That little part in the middle, where the song goes all quiet as though to tease an ending, only to explode into folksy glory was even better live.

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Deer Tick @ Broadcast, Glasgow

Broadcast is in a tough spot.  Right in the heart of Glasgow’s busy Sauchiehall Street it is fenced in by much larger venues across the road – the ABC and The Garage – and the world renowned independent King Tuts Wah Wah Hut a few streets over.  Glasgow’s music scene has always been thriving and there’s a lot of competition in the city, which is why you get the feeling that Broadcast isn’t doing itself many favours.

Gigs at Broadcast take place downstairs from the main bar – which is the same set-up as many venues in the city (Tuts, Stereo, Barrowlands, Oran Mor, etc).  I can’t imagine the spiral staircase being ideal in an emergency situation, particularly at a busy gig.  The venue itself resembles the Black Hole of Calcutta.  It’s tiny, and with a mass of people crammed in there movement is at a premium and – unless you are fortunate to be in the front 3 or 4 layers of people – it’s impossible to see the stage.  I think at one point last night I saw John McCauley’s forehead.  The ceiling is so low that you worry that one moment of excitement could result in concussion.  And there’s a big massive fucking pole in the middle of the room.  The downstairs “bar” (it’s literally just a table with warm beer, Jack Daniels, vodka and a bottle of coke) is pointless and the only toilets are upstairs.

But none of this is Deer Tick’s fault and they did the best they could in the circumstances.  The sound engineer did a tremendous job in getting a near perfect sound down there, and the band were sounding tight, with McCauley’s booze-tinged vocals crackling brilliantly.

The bulk of this set was formed from last year’s brilliant Negativity, and openers The Rock and The Dream’s in the Ditch transferred well to the live setting.  There wasn’t much let-up between songs (perhaps because of the venue’s inexplicable 10pm curfew, meaning this was an 80-minute set at best) and the night was a relentless chain of folk-rock songs.

An early cover of the classic American rock song Oh Boy by Buddy Holly provided the perfect lead in to the night’s rockiest tune, Let’s All Go To The Bar, and a surprise appearance from John McCauley’s new wife Vanessa Carlton brought with it a charming In Our Time.

My own highlight of the gig was a quite extraordinary solo performance of Smith Hill.  The album version is superb with its slow build to a soaring string finale, but here it was relying entirely on John’s vocals – and boy did he pull it off.  He brought that song to life before us.  The emotion was palpable and heartbreaking and beautiful.

The gig seemed to come to a very impromptu finish, though, in keeping with the general shambolic nature of the venue.  Deer Tick were off stage at 10.05, and naturally everyone was standing around chanting for “one more song” and expecting an encore.  After a few minutes I heard the sound guy tell the barman that the curfew is 10.15, and after a bit of panic the house music came on and everyone shuffled off mildly confused.  I personally approve of the no encore policy (if that’s what this was), but this was a strange ending to a good gig in a terrible venue.