by Suzanne Oswald and Robert Blair Contributor | Photos by BBC Pictures

The Jesus And Mary Chain triumph at day one of BBC 6 Music Festival 2017

Ride, Future Islands, Sparks, Goldfrapp, and Sleaford Mods among other highlights

 

The Jesus And Mary Chain ride review Photo: BBC Pictures

The Jesus and Mary Chain make a triumphant return to the Barrowlands in the thrilling inauguration of the BBC 6 Music Festival in Glasgow.

On the very day that Damage And Joy has been unleashed into the world, their first new album in nearly twenty years, the East Kilbride band dish out a career-spanning set in front of a fully receptive home crowd who lap up every second. Bedecked with neon trees and BBC 6 Music logos, it is a case of two of Glasgow’s biggest music institutions coming together with great force at the iconic Barrowlands; reinforcing the city’s stellar reputation for producing extraordinary bands and wholly passionate crowds.

Immediately indicating that the night is not going to be a mere exercise in nostalgia, the band open with the thunderous sounds of recent single ‘Always Sad’; the fuzzed out duet gaining more resonance when performed live over a backdrop of electrifying guitar lines and driving percussion. The anthemic delivery of ‘April Skies’, ‘Head On’ and ‘Far Gone And Out’ in quick succession receive particularly rousing responses; bursting with urgency and vitality, it is a thrilling combination that would send any Mary Chain fan into complete and utter ecstasy.

While the new album indicates an invigorated return to form, the abrasive sounds of their towering 1985 masterpiece Psychocandy still feel remarkably vital alongside the plethora of early material on show; the era-defining setlist reminding us of their hugely significant and varied contribution to rock & roll legend. And while they no longer incite the same chaos and tabloid-bating ruckus, they are every inch the image of authentic rock & roll. A sharply dressed Jim Reid strikes you with his effortless cool and nonchalance; with few words inbetween, his gritty vocal is the perfect accompaniment to the squalling guitar lines which ring through the venue with indomitable spirit. The triumphant set finishes with a rousing encore which includes the timeless classic ‘Just Like Honey’.

Continuing in the spirit of legendary icons and hugely influential discographies, Ride arguably provide the set of the day in their pre-headline slot at the Barrowlands. Revisiting classics from popular albums such as Nowhere and Going Blank Again, the four-piece receive a heroic reception when they take their final bow and it is truly deserved. Sounding utterly re-energised and invigorated in their return, new tracks ‘Charm Assault’ and ‘Home Is A Feeling’ fit in perfectly alongside the impressive run of early material; the first is bold and punchy in its delivery while the later revisits the more transcendental aspects of their sound. Seemingly a natural continuation from when the band were at the peak of their powers at the beginning of the nineties, both tracks certainly increase the levels of anticipation surrounding the release of their newly announced album Weather Diaries on 16 June.

The intimate surroundings of the Barrowlands provide the perfect setting for their expressive 11-song set, featuring stirring takes on ‘Seagull’ and ‘Twisterella’; driving bass lines are gloriously combined with Andy Bell’s electrifying guitar lines with deafening results while Mark Gardener’s wistful vocals remain as dreamy as ever. It is the Andy Bell-fronted ‘Vapour Trail’ that is met with the most euphoric response though; hands are raised in the air and its airy melodies are bellowed back.

It is a Friday night in Glasgow of course, and while the bar swells with buzzing punters all through the night, each act is met with glowing appreciation. Sleaford Mods open the day with a typically thrilling performance which goes down a storm at the remarkably early time of half five. Jason Williamson’s charisma and intensity marks him out as one of the most compelling frontmen in music over the backdrop of Andrew Fearn’s menacing compositions and sparse rhythms. Before their last song, Williamson takes time out to thank 6 music for their dedication to alternative music, insisting that they are “forever indebted” to the station and pointing out its huge role in the “existence of organic music”.

Warpaint offer a more ethereal performance; their combination of tight harmonies and atmospheric art pop is nothing short of entrancing. Wonderfully intimate yet expansive at the same time, Jenny Lee Lindberg remains a captivating presence while striking up a formidable partnership with partner in rhythm Stella Mozgawa on drums. With tracks immersing into one another with great fluidity, the best on show is definitely their most direct upbeat; ‘New Song’.

Over at Saint Luke’s, the festival shines a light on exciting new talent with an endearing display from Girl Ray. While their set is threatened by unfortunate sound issues, Poppy Hankin keeps the patient crowd amused with her quick renditions of Wham and JLS; it is probably the only time you’ll hear anything from the boyband at this festival ever again. Their breezy lo-fi creations are noticeably bolstered and hold greater resonance in the live setting. Following this, Dutch Uncles make for a captivating and eccentric bunch. Clad in matching outfits, Duncan Wallis makes for an eccentric frontman in his fidgety movements and enthralling command of the glockenspiel. Celebrating the recent release of their album Big Balloon, it comes as no surprise that the band have been referred to as one of Manchester’s best kept secrets in their idiosyncratic yet utterly infectious creations.

Meanwhile, the southside's O2 Academy plays host to an amalgamation of pop music's most brazenly original acts. Tasked with opening the evening's show but by no means feeling like a support act, Baltimore's Future Islands make their way onto the brightly lit stage to what must be one of the bigger crowds that has ever assembled at the venue at such an early juncture in the evening. With Sam Herring commenting on the refreshing peculiarity of the situation and how pleased they were to have returned to Glasgow, the trio (plus live drums courtesy of touring member Michael Lowry) immediately enrapture the crowd with 'Aladdin.'

Setting out with the title track from their upcoming new record The Far Field, it's not hard to imagine that tonight's show as part of the 6 Music Festival is in many ways a precursor or trial run for the set that fans are likely to hear on their upcoming UK tour. Spurred on by the wild, shamanic stage presence of Herring as he stalks the stage and connects with every audience member he can, the emotive nature of the band's material is amplified in the live setting and shines through on 'Beauty Of The Road' and a stirring rendition of The Far Field's lead single 'Ran'.

Interspersed with what seemed to be genuinely organic words from the frontman, the band's bold decision to continue the run of new tracks continues with the recently unveiled 'Cave'.The band then make a natural transition into more familiar territory in the form of On The Water favourite 'Balance', and the exhilarating 'Lighthouse' from their breakout album, Singles.

Speaking of which, the moment that many casual fans of the band would have been longing for arrives in the form of 'Seasons (Waiting On You)'. Revered as the song that propelled them into the hearts and minds of the world's collective gaze, it naturally elicits the most resounding reaction of the night as the band's meticulous performance leaves space for Herring's primal roars to hit home.

By the time the band hurtle into 'Tin Man' and an electrifying rendition of the synth pop masterclass known as 'Spirit', it becomes all too clear that this is a band firing on all cylinders after many years together and it's no surprise that the vast majority of their upcoming tour is sold out months in advance.

A group which Future Islands stated that they were honoured to perform alongside due to their last influence on their sound, the avant garde pop legends Sparks descend on the O2 Academy with a revitalised set and an all-star band in tow. Flanked by longstanding members of Queens Of The Stone Age and Mini Mansions, the sibling duo of Russell and Ron Mael greet their adoring public with an eclectic mix of tracks from their long, storied career before performing a variety of new songs for the very first time. Bursting into life with 'At Home, At Work, At Play' and 'Good Morning', their wholly bombastic sound and wry sense of humours finds its stride during a rousing version of 'When Do I Get To Sing My Way?' From their 1994 LP Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins.

Following a brief discussion about their upcoming new album, the band tear into a smattering of tracks from the record which intrigues but fails to hit home to the degree of their older material. The off-kilter melodies and wordplay of title track 'Hippopotamus' appear lost on the crowd before the silliness of 'The Missionary Position' was met with a similarly nonplussed response, but one new offering that definitely struck a chord was the sardonic sound of 'What Is It This Time?' Described by Russell Mael as the sound of an overworked God proclaiming that our pleas for guidance "better be really important", it is evident that their ability to create pop that is not only eccentric for eccentricity's sake but also thought provoking has not diminished at all and hopefully signposts the general direction of the album.

Rounding things off with a series of their most iconic numbers including 'This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us' and 'Amateur Hour'; it proves beyond all doubt that Sparks still have a place in the sphere of modern music and still have the capacity to grip an audience whenever they please.

After a brief intermission, it's time for O2 Academy headliners Goldfrapp to deliver their glossy electro-pop to an excitable Glasgow crowd. Setting out with the stunning 'Utopia', it's abundantly clear that Alison and co are capable of holding the crowd in the palm of their hands whenever one of their more upbeat tracks emerge. Keeping things up-tempo with the combination of 'Anymore' and the pulsating and instantly recognisable sounds of 'Train', their set seems to grind to an abrupt halt as they dish out the placid and relatively lifeless new single 'Oceans' from upcoming record Silver Eye. As is to be expected, moments of airiness and more apologetic tracks are met with relative apathy by what is a rowdy and excitable Glasgow crowd.

Imaginations are captured once again with a thrilling take on 'Systemagic' that gets everyone back on-side. Proving to be more than a momentary return to form, the set's last section is brimming with the hits that cemented Goldfrapp as one of the UK's most beloved synth-pop outfits. Ranging from a touching version of 'Black Cherry' to the onslaught of massive hooks that is 'Ooh La La', the audience are most definitely satisfied by the time that they bring things to a thudding conclusion with 'Strict Machine', and proved that the enduring impact of their catalogue and their forward-thinking sound's effectiveness has not been diminished.


Suzanne Oswald and Robert Blair

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