Martin John Henry / Behold, The Old Bear / Towers – Captain’s Rest, Glasgow – 10th March 2012

A late night in Glasgow yesterday for the launch of Martin John Henry’s ‘Span’/’Only Colour’ at the Captain’s Rest.

First band of the evening (and playing their first gig) were the allegedly acoustic Towers. OK, the singer did have an acoustic guitar but there was an electric guitar in use as well.

They played a really short but loud set (only four songs I think) and the last one was the loudest tune of the lot (Andy later comparing it to PJ Harvey). Quite promising stuff.

Next on were Behold, The Old Bear featuring Raindeer and Cammy from Mitchell Museum although it’s Raindeer that’s the front person this time around. My first listen to the tracks on their Soundcloud suggested that comparisons with MM were valid but in person, they’re really quite different,

So, yes, there’s the occasional reminder of their other band, the odd ‘Aahh’ backing vocals, one explosive change of tempo but all in all they’re much less frantic and more considered than MM.

The set also suggests that they’ve got plenty of good songs. Best of the lot is possibly ‘Best Enemy’ but the closing tune rocks things up a bit.

Very, very promising and an LP is apparently in the works.

And so to the headliner(s). Although by my reckoning the MJH band have only played live about half a dozen times, last night’s performance suggested a band with a far greater number of gigs behind them.

Certainly it was the most confident set I’ve seen them play which might be slightly surprising given that original bassist Chris Connick has departed on a season long loan to Ujpest Dosza (to be replaced by De Rosa’s James Woodside).

They take to the stage with no fanfare, the four members striding on purposefully before Martin kicks a pedal to launch into an energised ‘Breathing Space’. When that finished there’s no letting up as it’s straight into a massive ‘First Light’.

The opening salvo is completed by ‘New Maps’ before there’s a (possibly unintended) slower section of the show initiated by the live debut of ‘A Perfect Landing’. It’s a tune that I sometimes think is  a little overshadowed on the record but this take is spellbinding and it’s the tune I woke up to lodged in my brain.

It’s followed by a haunting ‘Seventh Song’ and a lovely ‘I Love Map’ before  a brilliant ‘Only Colours’ sets up a noisier conclusion to the set. So ‘Ribbon on a Bough’ (a “stupid song” according to Martin!) and ‘Span’ lift the tempo again. This time around ‘Phantom… ‘ isn’t the closing tune, epic though it is, but instead things are brought to a conclusion with ‘Choose Your Words Carefully’ complete with new live ending.

Having seen the band three times now, my feeling is that each of the last two shows have improved significantly on their predecessors. One obvious reason for that is that the band appeared to have worked out live arrangements that work for all the songs. The additional section to ‘Choose Your Words’ is possibly the best example of that. In October the song really just petered out which is easier to get away with on record than in a live setting. But the new ending meant that it provided a ferocious finish to the set.

So definitely well worth the trip through to Glasgow (and as a bonus it has also generated material for an interview in the next few days).

The AA sided single ‘Span’/’Only Colour’ is officially released tomorrow (12th March) on Gargleblast Records. There’s a 7″ version as well as a 7 track EP featuring the 2 a-sides plus new song ‘White Flamingo’ and four remixes – 2 of ‘Span’ by Human Don’t Be Angry and James Morgan and one apiece of ‘Ribbon on a Bough’ (by Miaoux Miaoux) and ‘Breathing Space’ (by Mogwai). Order the format of your choice here.

 

Martin and band are back in action next Saturday (17th) with a gig at the Third Door in Edinburgh.

Setlist:

1. Breathing Space  2. First Light  3. New Maps  4. A Perfect Landing  5. Seventh Song  6. I Love Map  7. Only Colour  8. Ribbon on a Bough  9. Span  10. There’s A Phantom Hiding In My Loft  11. Choose Your Words Carefully

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