erasing clouds

Live Review: Television Personalities, Maher Shalal Hash Baz, Juana Molina, Alasdair Roberts, Pastels DJs, Miso DJs, Lucky Luke, Dosimat, Open Field Church, Andres Lokko at Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Scotland, 30th April 2005

reviewed by anna battista

“This is the closest thing to crazy I have ever been…almost forty-five, acting seventeen,” Television Personalities’ Daniel Treacy sings out of tune, twisting Katie Melua’s lyrics. People laugh and clap, but the first part of this Geographic night, part of the Triptych Festival, doesn’t seem to go down too well. Treacy is not that interested in playing tonight – at least it looks so - and keeps on interrupting the songs with long breaks and complaints about the venue and the fact that it’s only 6 pm, definitely not the right time to go on stage.

Luckily, the friendly atmosphere of a typical Triptych gig is restored when the Open Field Church get on stage in the restaurant area of Glasgow’s Tron Theatre, turned for the occasion into a multiple room venue. The band is a small collective of Brazilian musicians obsessed with Maher Shalal Hash Baz’s song ‘Open Field’. Tonight Eduardo Ramos & Co are joined on stage by local friends BMX Bandits’ Douglas T. Stewart, International Airport’s Tom Crossley and Belle & Sebastian’s Sarah Martin. They sing English covers of seminal Brazilian singers such as Gilberto Gil, and are enthusiastically cheered especially for their rendition of Jorge Ben’s ‘Mas Que Nada’.

Alasdair Roberts’set is tinged with folk references and it is inspired by traditional Scottish ballads. He performs songs from Appendix Out’s back catalogue (‘Frozen Blight’, ‘Ice Age’), from his 2003 album “Farewell Sorrow” (‘Come, My Darling Polly’) and from his latest “No Earthly Man”. Death and tragedy are always at the core of Roberts’ songs, but the way he delivers them in his calm and clear voice, as if he were telling us a story, is mesmerizing. His flawless set closes with two gems, ‘Admiral Cole’ and ‘Sweet William’, which leave the audience in awe of this young charismatic singer and songwriter.

While in the foyer the Miso DJs are providing a sort of chill out environment, folk-rock group Lucky Luke – the band formed by Simon Shaw of V-Twin fame and harmonium and concertina player Morag Wilson - delight the audience with their powerful ballads, at times sad, at times joyous, yet always energetic and catchy, in particular their single 'Fear Eats The Soul'.

Stephen Pastel, Gerard Love and Andres Lokko DJ in the restaurant room during the breaks between one band and the other, and, after popping in there briefly, I redirect myself to the theatre room where Juana Molina is playing. Molina is better known in Latin America for starring in "Juana y Sus Hermanas", an Argentinean sketch comedy TV series. She’s been developing her career as a musician since 1996: all her songs are delicate and gentle melodies, mostly delivered in Spanish on a background of acoustic guitars and electronica elements. The highlight is ‘El Perro’, a comic track at the end of which Juana barks like a real dog, including an element of comedy in her set.

Back in the restaurant area in the meantime, Japanese Maher Shalal Hash Baz are getting ready to get on stage. The crowd thickens while we wait. Then Tori Kudo arrives and sits at the piano, his back to the audience and to the members of his band (among them there’s also Tori’s wife Reiko). Tori directs his little orchestra launching in a sort of melodic music with jazzy nuances. There’s a special funny moment when Tori announces ‘This is the last song,’ and concludes the gig after pronouncing just four magic words, ‘Open, Open, Open Field’.

So, while Dosimat in the foyer introduce the audience to some fine and ethereal electronica, Television Personalities are back in the theatre area and we go back there hoping things will get better. They sound just a tiny bit better, managing to play among the others also the new song ‘No More I Hate Yous’ and the classic ‘Look Back in Anger’. If they could just concentrate, they could be much better (vocalist Victoria Yeulet has got quite a nice voice; Graeme Wilson on bass and Mathew Sawyer on drums are quite coordinated, though Treacy isn’t): shame Treacy is too busy joking about a puppet duck he’s just bought in a £1 shop, that, according to him, resembles Alan McGee, and generally arguing with random members of the audience.

Perhaps too many years have gone since the band formed in 1977 and recapturing particular moments in the life of Television Personalities is impossible; perhaps we are simply expecting too much from tonight’s gig. ‘If only they could be more coherent’, I hear somebody behind me saying during the gig, and I’m almost tempted to answer that, after all, coherence was never among Television Personalities’ artistic qualities.

{All photographs by Anna Battista}

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