Live Review:Baby Strange & WHITE -Glasgow

WHITE & Baby Strange

O2 ABC Glasgow, 16th December 2016
Words: Gary Feeney

As two of the leading lights of a Glasgow music scene which has enjoyed a fantastically productive year with new bands and brilliant songs appearing in the city thicker and faster than burger bars for people with beards, Baby Strange and WHITE’s co-headline show in ABC was one to mark up on your calendar and count the days off to from the moment it was announced back in July.

Even back then, there was a sense that it would be more than just a gig, but a monument to all that the great music has produced over the last couple of years, a night to celebrate what has been and to show what is still to come – the supporting cast of the Cut and Ninth Wave certainly backed up that latter sentiment.

As it turned out, I didn’t actually manage to make the Cut or Ninth Wave despite having made all sorts of plans to make sure I arrived early enough to do so, which was somewhat galling, but that disappointment was never really likely to last with the prospect of the two main acts on offer.

First up of the pair were WHITE, who chose to open with three new, unreleased songs which was quite a bold move in the circumstances, and it’s probably open to debate whether or not it really worked out – as a big fan of the band, I was happy to hear more new music from them, but there were a few people standing near me who seemed a bit unenthused by the idea and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see their point; nonetheless, it’s a mark of the confidence WHITE possess that they were willing to open with new material and in fairness, the songs did sound good.

The set fully sprung to life with a furious rendition of Step Up, and after that there was no looking back as the quintet rattled through their already formidable back catalogue with the panache and power that has become their trademark. It’s very much a full show WHITEput on too: along with the on-screen visuals (and gratuitous use of ABC’s planet-sized disco-ball), the band members are all engaging performers, particularly guitarist Hamish Fingland and singer Leo Condie, and as they tore through the likes of Living Fiction and an outstanding rendition of I Liked You Better When You Needed Me, it felt more like a massive party than a gig by the time they finished. If anyone had any misgivings at the start of the set, they were surely dismissed by the end as WHITE proved that this is their natural environment. It won’t be long before they’re filling such venues in their own right.

For all of that though, there was no doubt that this night was ultimately all about Baby Strange, and from the opening riff of Pure Evil you know this was going to be one to remember as pints and bodies went flying through the air and for the next 45 minutes or so, the close to capacity crowd were treated to a lesson in the power of rock’n’roll music. Album track Nude was an early highlight along with the raucous Want It, Need It, but the moment  which really set the night on fire was when the band launched into a cover of the Lapelles’ Snakehips, dedicated to the late and sadly missed Gary “fuckin” Watson. It’s such a wonderfully exuberant song, and I’d wager that there were more than a few tears mixed in with the sweat – the Lapelles were (and are) an extremely well-loved band in these parts, and the euphoric reaction to the cover seemed to channel the sense of loss in the most amazing way.

There was also a new song included too, a lower-tempo number than usual which gave the crowd a change to catch its collective breath. It occurred to me afterwards that this would have fitted on it rather nicely as a counter-balance to the high energy rock’n’roll which dominates it (not that there’s anything wrong with it the way it is); as it is, it offered an interesting glimpse at what’s still to come from the trio.

Elsewhere, VVV was another stand-out with its irresistibly dark and dirty groove, and also Pleasure City which is quite simply one of the finest anthems in a long time, but in truth it was an exhilarating performance from Baby Strange from start to finish, proving that they’re one of the most exciting and unmissable bands around at the moment – back in February last year when I first wrote about the band for Popped, I opined that that their live shows then were like a peek at what it must have been like to see acts like the Libertines in their early days, and here they turned in a show which more than vindicated that assessment.

As previously mentioned, 2016 has been a fantastic year for music in Glasgow (although that statement can’t really be made without acknowledging the horrible low of Gary Watson’s tragic passing), but if Friday’s event was a celebration of that, then the progression of both headliners from the likes of Broadcast and Stereo to a major venue was a statement of intent for the year to come and showed their contemporaries that the jump is more than possible – with a whole host of acts due to release new music and albums next year, including all four from Friday’s bill, it seems entirely likely that local bands playing in venues like ABC will become the norm rather than a special, one-off event.

There was a confidence and ease about both band’s performances that just made it feel right that they were playing a show of this size – when it’s this much fun, let’s hope that it won’t be the last time Baby Strange and WHITE share a bill.

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