It has been nearly two years since Glasgow band Glasvegas have played the United States. In that two years the band have recorded a new album, lost their original drummer – Caroline McKay, gained a new one – Jonna Löfgren, bassist Paul Donoghue has lost some teeth, guitarist Rab Allen got some tattoos and singer James Allen nearly lost his mind. Allen, a man who looks like Joe Strummer but wears his heart on his sleeve like Ian Curtis is usually dressed in all black to symbolize the band’s moody tone, but now he is in all white – literally. Dressed in head to toe white denim jacket, white jeans, white sneakers and a white Beatles Help cut off shirt, Allen is symbolically showing off his own rebirth and cleanse. After battling drugs, heartbreak and the perils of fame, Allen and his band have penned a beautiful and sweeping album – Euphoric /// Heartbreak \ which was just released in the US this week.
Just before Glasvegas took to the stage, it was very easy to notice that this is going to be a different band and different set than fans have been accustomed to. For starters, James’ mic was connected to a long rope light that added a bizarre but beautiful ambiance, the band’s gear looks brand new and this is the first stop on their US tour, so anything special can happen. Taking the stage at 10pm sharp and walking out to the lead track off Euphoric, “Pain Pain, Never Again” before grabbing their instruments and jumping right into the Scarface inspired “The World is Yours.” The band’s “Wall of Sound” meets U2 stadium style sound hits you immediately. James Allen’s pain and passion can be felt deep in your bones as he belts out the stories of his life into the microphone as the emotion would bring him to his knees. Allen used to play guitar in the band, now he is just taking the stage as a full on front man, just him and his microphone. As the band plowed through a slew of new songs including “Euphoria, Take My Hand” and “Shine like Stars,” James would talk to the audience, in his thick Scottish accent, about how his life has changed. “I used to be a member of the working class, I used to write songs about Blue Collar people, I was one of them, now I am not anymore, so I do not write those songs anymore” before breaking into “Lonesome Swan” off the band’s stellar 2008 debut. While the new songs would rouse the audience, the biggest and best applause would come from the now infamous material off their first record. As this was indeed the first stop on the band’s US tour, James welcomed his close friend Geraldine to the stage, the woman who inspired the band’s biggest hit to date, “Geraldine.” Closing the first set with the anthem, “Go Square Go,” the audience would only beg for more. The Allen cousins, Rab and James would walk onto the stage to perform a ballad and minimal version of “Flowers and Football Tops,” a song that has managed to bring grown men back in the UK to tears. It a beautiful rendition of the epic song, the rest of the band returned to close out the show. For an hour and fifteen minutes Glasvegas proved that if you have seen them in the past, you have not seen them before. This is a band breaking down the walls of every club they play and are ready for arenas.
Opening the show was New York City band The Dig. The Dig have just returned back home after a long tour of the west coast and are linking up with Glasvegas for all of their North America dates. The Dig have been generating a very strong buzz and seem to be everywhere these days, if you are headed out to any gigs over the summer, chances are you will be seeing this band and they are worth seeing. The Dig have always been a great band to see but last night opening for Glasvegas was the best I have ever seen them. With broken strings and wrists (bassist Emile Mosseri busted a string at the top of the band’s set and never replaced it and keyboardist / guitarist Eric Eiser is still recovering from an injury sustained at SXSW) – The Dig were simply on fire. Vocalist and guitarist David Baldwin looked like a bona fide rock star from the Bowery and was simply a delight to watch play. The fire The Dig are burning is now set ablaze in their live shows. They are a well polished rock and roll machine that needs to be seen and absorbed. As the band finished their 30 minute set, the audience was begging for more, chanting “One more song!” the band smiled as they broke down their gear. Soon, those chants of “one more song!” will happen during their headline gigs and guarantee, it will be headline gigs at Bowery Ballroom.