Saturday, September 05, 2009

Pastels / Tenniscoats & Veronica Falls, Stereo, Glasgow, 2nd September

This is the only way I can think of that Foolin’ Around #4 was ever going to be able to live up to Foolin’ Around #3, a Tenniscoats show which raised the roof without ever raising the volume, joy unconfined. And how appropriate for it to come so soon after Edwyn Collins’ Edinburgh shows, because he’s the one who started this. More than anyone else, more even than Jonathan Richman. Equal with James Kirk. Can you imagine what would have happened had Orange Juice’s classic line-up stayed together beyond their first LP? If they had continued to be that alive to the possibilities of sounds made with friends, guided by delight in the fluidity and fragility of it all? What if they’d continued with that past youth into adulthood proper, never losing what intuition told them? Or if The Chills had done the same thing, exploring further the textures of ‘Pink Frost’ instead of jetting off into heavenly pop hits? There are few things I like more than a good Chills tune, but part of me always wants their records to be more home made. After Wednesday’s show, Andy said about all those references to Mingus and Coltrane in Pastels fanzines from way back, that they had never been gratuitous, and that here they were fed back into their sound. Chris said: ‘When did Katrina become a jazz drummer?’

Before the main event of the evening came a fine, short set from Veronica Falls, the band who have emerged from the ashes of Sexy Kids, who did likewise from The Royal We. More rockin’ than either of those bands, but still with an ear to the ’50s, their ambition seems to be to become The Saints’ cover of ‘Lipstick On Your Collar’. There were high harmonies and smart, compact tunes. Like The Royal We two years ago, when they also played with Pastels / Tenniscoats (or The Pastels and Tenniscoats, as they then were), Veronica Falls blasted us with brief brilliance then scarpered, neither set touching the twenty minute mark. One song’s bass line was from Pixies’ ‘Debaser’, which seemed a bold move; another sounded like my faded memory of Talking Heads trying to sound like Joy Division without having heard them. Nothing seemed quite as monstrously catchy as Sexy Kids’ ‘Sisters Are Forever’, but they were, for the third band name in a row, a breath of fresh air.

Much needed in the basement of Stereo, which got to be stifling before the night was through. This despite the loud blasts of air conditioning which someone in the background tried to keep to a minimum during the music’s quiet moments, not always successfully. ‘Hi, we’re Pastels / Tenniscoats, we come from Glasgow and Tokyo. This is the first show we’ve played with Tenniscoats, and – we’ll just get it underway and give you a nice smooth journey.’ Your flight attendant, Stephen Pastel. Maybe he meant it was the first night of the tour, or maybe he meant this is ground zero. ‘We will achieve a third great sound, I’m sure we will’ he said, after those earlier concerts, the ones I slated, a little unfairly. In truth the sound was already there, it was just the songs which were missing. New album Two Sunsets – out on Monday – sets that straight. As with many a recent show, they started with ‘Charlie’s Theme’, that gentle, loping, falling away, built around a trumpet line that divides like cells. On after an air conditioning solo into ‘Two Sunsets’, Saya radiant and just the most amazing performer to watch, she fills your heart just by smiling, just by singing. Just! I wondered whether the confidence and stage presence of the Mono show would carry over, given how reticent she’d been in a group context before. Yup.

(In fact, the Tenniscoats showed their character most of all during the first encore song, which they played as a duo. After a staggering ‘Baby Honey’, played for the first time in many years, fresh as a daisy, rockin’ as clockwork – complete, even, with fluffed intro – they came back out and did this slap guitar ’n’ shrieks thing, Björk meets Gary Lucas, Saya having to restrain Ueno’s happy fretwankery with a hand damping the strings for much of the time. What a fabulous response, they are unstoppable.)

It struck me during ‘Song For A Friend’ that it contains an almost-steal from Orange Juice’s ‘In A Nutshell’: the ‘sh sh sh shu do’ bit, transposed to trumpet. Goodness gracious, so audacious. As of now, this is my favourite Pastels song. Stephen gives a bit of background to it on MySpace. ‘Vivid Youth’, which one can only presume will be #1 on Sunday, if they still have #1s and charts and Sundays, cranked up the pace to an amble, John Hogarty’s Les Paul the most muscular sound on stage, contrasting wildly with Ueno’s dreamy guitar loops – both equally frantic, at times of lift off. Which were frequent: on ‘Boats’ his playing was brilliant, shivering and shimmering all over a song which was made from indistinctness in the first place (it is the least immediate song on Two Sunsets, its foggy-morning charms take a while). His trousers were brilliant too: pale jeans with wide horizontal painted-on stripes. Presumably these inspired the visual theme for the evening, almost the entire band wore stripes of some sort. There weren’t costume changes or anything, but that seemed quite glam, for The Pastels. ‘Start Slowly So We Sound Like A Loch’ occupied similar sonic territory to ‘Boats’, but it’s evening rather than morning, the loch so calm and clear you can see the opposite bank reflected without a ripple, all the way to sunset. Tom took over on drums so Katrina could stand to sing, a jazz singer as well as a jazz drummer, husky and clear-eyed, such a beautiful sound. Not a re-tread of Illumination but a development from it: nothing happens quickly, each hit and note, each clunk and twang is weighted, placed, the listener suspended between them, wanting to be nowhere else. If this isn’t a great sound, I never heard one.


Update: Brogues has made the exclusive fanzine available to 50 attendees a little bit less exclusive by putting it online here (content, by him, S. & I) and here (style, by him and J.).


Piebird said...

Still gutted I had to leave so early!!

Yet somehow, listening through to the latter bits on your recording, it felt spookily like I'd been there after all. Wonderful.

Love the review.

Chris said...

That was such a shame. Though it was quite good that, walking up the road, you started singing 'About You' at the same time as Stephen in the venue.

And thank you.

brogues said...

"the listener suspended between them, wanting to be nowhere else" - amen to that! Brilliant line, Chris. What a wonderful night and another beautiful review from La Terrasse. I'm amazed that I didn't spot Ewan MacGregor and Eva Green in the crowd. Did you? Word has it that they came along with The Last Great Wilderness/Hallam Foe director David Mackenzie. MacGregor bought a record and a Pastelism badge. Let's hope he wears it on Jonathan Ross or something!

brogues said...

Hope you don't mind me putting it up electronically. Folks were getting in touch looking for copies. I woulda made hundreds of the blighters if time and money had permitted cos those who contributed submitted such lovely stuff that deserved to be read.

Chris said...

Not at all, I'm delighted, thanks for asking us to contribute. S. had some second thoughts about her piece - that maybe it wasn't enough about The Pastels, and that it was 'too twee for words', I think she said.

Of course she is quite wrong, it is great and Pastels to the core.

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