Photo by Kirstie Shanley for Transmission
At Bottom Lounge on Monday, Glasvegas had a golden opportunity to take advantage of a palate cleansing opening band. Unfortunately, they didn't quite pull it off. Singer James Allan was off his game much of the night - missing cues, staggering around the stage, disinterested more often than not, etc. The rest of the band tried their hardest to be dynamic with a crowd that desperately wanted to like them. But they didn't really have many cards to play aside from turning their backs or taking a few steps toward the middle, rocking out, then backstepping to their positions on the side mics. And drummer Caroline McKay looked far too focused to be having a good time until the very end. (But then she had this huge smile and seemed elated to receive cheers.) Their stage presence appeared to rely on Allan, who was more interested in thanking the crowd for thanking him for being a rock star than actually being a rock star.
Even though they got off to a rough start with "Geraldine", the best song I've ever heard about a social worker, they seemed intent on delivering a real performance. As they progressed through a shuffled set of the album and EP songs, Allan got himself together and the band gained momentum, riled up the crowd, and sounded comparable to the heavy shoegaze/alt-rock of their records. At their best, they pummeled ears with a wall of sound that'd make Phil Spector or Kevin Shields proud. At their worst, they were aimless.
When they were on point, they were adored. "Go Square Go" and "Daddy's Gone" ended the set and planned encore, respectively; both carried mightily by audience singalongs of borderline anthemic choruses. The trick for a band's staying power, though, is those moments carrying an entire show and not being only moments. Glasvegas has a whole lot of potential. However, it seems that their potency, at least on a stage, revolves around just one person. If that person's not on the ball, the odds are stacked against them. But when he is, they can be very good.