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For One Night Only – The Grand Gestures vs Man Without Machines – CCA, Glasgow – Sunday 9th February 2014

Having missed the Grand Gestures’ debut Glasgow show 18 months or so ago, there was no way I was missing the second, particularly since support came from MPT favourites Man Without Machines.

Having to find half a band almost as soon as the excellent ‘The Kreuzberg Press’ LP had been released must have stalled MWM’s progress in 2013 and it certainly was the main reason that I’d not seen the band play for almost a year.

However, the fact that there were only 2 acts on Sunday permitted MWM to play an extended 12 songs set. No fewer than 11 songs were plucked from the album with the only exception being a live debut (I think) for Split Enz cover B-side ‘Six Months In A Leaky Boat’.

The set was an enjoyable reminder of how good the album is. After ‘Sound of Your Lies’ and ‘Something’s Happening Here’ were dispensed with early on, I half expected the quality to dip at some stage –  but it never did. Indeed MWM concluded on a high with Barry Gibson adding a second drumkit to a thunderous ‘In Salt’.

The one thing that would have made the show even better was a little more volume as I suspect that it would have got a slightly reserved audience more involved.

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Man Without Machines played:

1. Sound of Your Lies  2. Peterloo  3. Constitution  4. Something’s Happening Here  5. We Talk  6. Anyway  7. Scorelines  8. Six Months In A Leaky Boat  9. Share The Love  10. Even Still Even Though 11. It’s Closer  12. In Salt

As expected, the Grand Gestures set featured a revolving door of vocalists but the project has grown to such an extent that, even at over an hour, there wasn’t room to feature a contribution from each singer on the night.

The band took to the stage at the same time as first vocalist Pauline Alexander but didn’t play a note during her spellbinding a capella version of ‘A Whisper of Sayanora’. Rarely have I seen an audience so engrossed to the extent that even a click of a shutter would have been a serious intrusion on the performance. Hence the fact that I don’t have any photos of this segment of the show.

If that set a high bar, the rest of the show matched it as the songs (mainly drawn from ‘Second’) were really brought to life live.

Although the backing on the records can be sparse, the live versions were sometimes even more minimalist. ‘Whisper’ was one example but Calamity Horse’s ‘The Emotion Game’ was also stripped back to just an acoustic and a slide guitar.

‘The Spree of Brian May’ is possibly my least favourite GG song on record but it was elevated in performance by the evil barrage of electronics unleashed.

It’s slightly misleading in this context to talk of highlights but certainly the euphoric ‘Daybreak’ with Jill O’Sullivan and the choppy disco of Sanjjev Kohli’s other contribution, ‘The Ballad of SW19’ would qualify as such.

The set was brought to a fine conclusion when the whole ensemble took to the stage for a massed ‘No Place Like Home’.

Logistics are always going to dictate that Grand Gestures shows are rare events but as Sunday demonstrated, when they do happen, they should be unmissable.

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The Grand Gestures played:

1. A Whisper of Sayanora (Pauline Alexander)  2. Regret Is A Dish Best Served Cold (R.M. Hubbert)  3. Daybreak (Jill O’Sullivan)  4. The Spree of Brian May (Sanjeev Kohli)  5. Running With Scissors (Emma Pollock)  6. The Emotion Game (Calamity Horse)  7. Sum of Our Parts (Bdy_Prts)  8. The Ballad of SW19 (Sanjeev Kohli)  9. No Place Like Home (Jill O’Sullivan and the Gesturettes)

More photos from the show here.

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