Glasvegas @ Hollywood Forever 6/12/09

Scottish wall of sound/surf rockers Glasvegas are all the rage in the UK and have even been getting a lot of buzz on this side of the Atlantic. Personally, I was excited to see them for the first time after the Troubadour show sold out at in January and then their Coachella appearance was canceled in April due to singer/guitarist James Allan’s heat exhaustion. After all the missed shows, my expectations were built up too high and this could only lead to disappointment.

Glasvegas have released a self-titled debut album (2008) and a Christmas EP (“A Snowflake Fell and It Felt Like a Kiss”), so I thought I’d easily recognize most of the songs they’d play. However, the show at Hollywood Forever’s Masonic Lodge was an acoustic show with only two members of the band playing, the aforementioned James Allan on vocals, guitar, and piano/keyboard and his cousin Rab on guitars and backing vocals. Bassist Paul Donoghue and drummer Caroline McKay add another dimension to the band’s sound, and their absence was very noticeable by the audience.

It may seem unfair to judge a band based on an acoustic performance when I’ve only seen them perform the with full band on television, but I actually think that James and Rab Allan performed well despite the rest of the band not playing with them. The only really questionable moment was their version of “I’m Gonna Get Stabbed” sung to the tune of Moonlight Sonata played on piano by a special guest. The visuals projected behind Glasvegas matched the somber mood of the show, which is rather appropriate for a concert at a cemetery.

The acoustic versions of their singles “It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry,” “Geraldine” and “Daddy’s Gone,” which closed the show, were both emotionally heartfelt and memorable enough to be greeted by a mostly enthusiastic audience of hipsters and students alike. The gorgeous projections behind the members of Glasvegas effectively distracted the audience from paying too much attention to the large angel ice sculpture on the stage, which was hidden by the curtains before the show started.

Overall, I found this show to be very different and special from most shows in general due to the location and missing personnel. Glasvegas have some good songs, but I can’t say that their strength is in the songwriting as much as it is in their music. James Allan’s thick Scottish accent is more noticeable when he talked to the audience, but his vocals seem very strained when backed only by acoustic guitars and piano or keyboards. I would think I would have enjoyed this show more if I’d heard the songs with the rest of the band.

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