Some of us prefer small, intimate gigs, where you’re confronted with a band’s energy right in front of your face, and possibly even smell the drummer, than larger, stadium affairs. Therefore, the news that Liars had been downsized form Glasgow’s iconic School of Art to the tiny basement stage boasted by Broadcast came as no disappointment to many.
This wasn’t due to lack of interest in either band, but rather to pricey tickets – though anyone who paid didn’t feel short-changed by this gig, teaming one of the finest contemporary Scottish bands with one of the finest American bands of the 21st century.
Happy Meals came out of nowhere (the city’s Green Door Studio, to be exact) about three years ago to scoop a SAY nomination with their debut, 'Apero', and have gone on to memorable gigs in club and art spaces. This was the first time I’d seen them play a conventional gig setting, and they ruled it. The duo of Lewis Cook and Suzann Rodden stood behind a stack on analogue synths, unleashing a wall of synthetic washes which resolved into the opening track of that debut, 'Crystal Salutation', reworked with more synth flourishes to become even more psychedelic. The perfect Italo-inflected pop of 'If You Want Me Now' saw Rodden take advantage of the intimate venue to wander through the crowd, splaying herself across chairs and emitting near-orgasmic croons.
She flits easily between lyrics in French and Glaswegian, which could come across as precious but feels entirely natural, perhaps due to her day job being a French teacher. The only hitch occurred when they had to restart 'Le Voyage' due to the sound not being loud enough for Cook‘s liking, but Rodden was soon back in the crowd assuring that "L’Avenir, c’est déjà arrive..." Certainly, future success for this band feels imminent.
Liars have been one of the most consistently unpredictable, innovative and sheerly enjoyable bands of the last couple of decades, having worked across multiple genres in multiple cities across the States and Europe; but still, Angus Andrews’ split from other long term core member Aaron Hemphill came as something of a shock. Undaunted, Andrews has continued the project, forming another trio (his preferred line up) with two brothers on guitars and making an album, 'TFCF', which is one of the darkest and most introspective records he’s ever made.
Andrews took to the stage in a striking white T and tutu combo, provocatively gyrating behind the guitarist as they explored material from the new album. While the likes of The Great Delusional, with its downbeat refrain and splayed beats held the audience’s attention, things really began to take off with the brilliantly warped funk of Cred Woe. This lead into an extended trawl through the Liars’ incredibly diverse back catalogue, subtly reconfigured for this new iteration of the band.
'Mess On A Mission', from Liars’ most electronic, technoid period, was stripped down into a ferocious slab of punk funk that provoked a mosh pit chanting its chorus, “Facts are facts/And fiction’s fiction”. 'It Fit When I Was A Kid', from their percussion-driven meisterwork 'Drum’s Not Dead', was played faithfully, sounding as menacingly absurd as ever, and showcasing the skills of their powerhouse new drummer.
On this form, this line up of Liars look like they could have another decade of mayhem in them, though I don’t think I’ll ever be privileged to see them play such an intimate, intense gig as this again, or have as much beer spilled on me by the crowd.
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Words: Brian Beadle
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