Big Joanie / Ghum / Rachel Aggs – Mono, Glasgow – Saturday 14th January 2023
It’s been 4 years since we last saw Big Joanie play a headline show and it’s fair to say, pandemic notwithstanding, they’ve used the time well.
Not only have they delivered a second album which was a step up from the excellent debut in every way, they’ve toured as support to the likes of Idles and St Vincent, playing to large crowds throughout the UK.
Their progress may have been more steady than rapid (and, you know, the pandemic may just have had something to do with that) but, maybe that’s for the best, because it feels like their rise is inexorable … and sustainable.
All that brought together, meant that last Saturday they sold out their latest Glasgow headline show at Mono, something they didn’t manage last time at the much smaller Hug & Pint.
Having not been in Twitter during the day we’d missed the addition of Rachel Aggs to the bill which meant that Rachel had already started by the time we queued (queued!) to get into Mono . Performing on her own, her backing was mainly electronic and featured beats heavily. Yet she still managed to get over the sheer exuberance of much of her material. We seemed to have missed technical issues early in the set but, by the time she’d finished, everyone was firmly on her side. Like there was ever any doubt!
Next up were tour support Ghum. New to us, they impressed from the off, the early songs in particular set alight by their fantastic guitarist. Whilst the songs undoubtedly have a doomy edge, they still carry enough hooks to keep every one onside. Their set was very well received and only a lack of CDs on the night (unsurprisingly the tour allocation was already sold out) stopped me buying the album (although I did get it from Bandcamp once we were home.)
Everything was set up perfectly for the headliners to celebrate their progress to date and to a large extent they did so, with the set touching some real highs.
On the back of Chardine’s impassioned intro (which raised the hairs on the back of this particular neck) ‘Fall Asleep’ was absolutely epic, a sweeping cascade of channelled energy, with additional live member Vanessa’s electronics provided the live version with a similar energy to the recording.
A menacing ‘Cranes In The Sky’ matched it for scope, showcasing Steph’s exhilarating guitar work whilst songs like ‘It’s You’ and ‘Your Words’ also managed to punch through to great effect.
But a couple of the songs did suffer, undermined by an at times dodgy sound. I’m seriously starting to wonder what’s going on at Mono as this is the third successive show we’ve been at when the supports have probably sounded clearer than the headliners. On this occasion, the low end of the sound simply swamped opener ‘Cactus Tree’ whilst, even later on in the set, ‘Sainted’ suffered a similar fate.
But it would be wrong to dwell on that and the set ended on an enthralling note with a terrific ‘In My Arms’ sending everyone away happy.
If Rachel is the epitome of exuberance then it equally applies to the three Joanies. Chardine is the closest that they have to a front-person and was engaging, funny and, when needed, angry. But both Steph and Estella revelled in their opportunities to speak, whether it be the relish with which Steph introduced ‘It’s You’ or Estella agitating for a General Strike!
The band are unrepentant about using their platform to get over their beliefs and, I can imagine, this may turn some folk off. But, you know what? Fuck them, as there’s no doubt that the Joanies will be proven to be on the right side of history.
The trio were also at pains to emphasise how important Glasgow has been to their development, in particular how Raggs has helped them. And I think Steph was surprised to discover that Raggs was at that point in the front row of the crowd!
In conclusion, at times, Big Joanie were as breath-taking as anyone could hope for, but I don’t think the room really permitted them to do themselves full justice for the whole set. Hopefully next time will be in a bigger and better sounding room.