Let’s rewind back several months to when Suck It And See first came out. So soon after Humbug, so soon after Alex had finished working on the Submarine soundtrack, so soon after they’d gone to more serious (or at least slower) music and lyrics. Humbug was multi-layered, ambiguous, truly witty and clever and with great guitar solos, courtesy of Josh Homme, especially in songs like Crying Lightning, Dance Little Liar and Pretty Visitors. It also had the not-to-be-underestimated benefit of discouraging part of the female audience, who only liked them, because ‘OMG, Alex is soo cute’ (though not entirely - there’s only so much you do against raging hormones). They were evolving, making a definite step forward, especially in the lyrics- they were more storyline-based, with great metaphors, imagery and sarcasm.
... Aaaaand then, shortly after the announcement of their next album, Brick by Brick, came out – a song that should have been cut down to a 20 second interlude if you ask me. It’s just one song though, I though, let it slide. Then there was Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair to follow it up. It was all very confusing – I kind of felt like Alice, falling down the rabbit hole – ‘What was the deal?’
In a magazine, a few months ago, Alex was quoted saying he would like to take a break until he has come up with material that’s actually worth putting into an album, so I promised myself I wouldn’t go their concert in Glasgow until they’ve released something else. I did go though, and boy, was I surprised. There is definitely something that you simply can’t hear in the album if you just listen to it on your headphones - a sense of grandeur that apparently only comes through if you have lights flashing in your face, people pushing into you and you’re screaming off the top of your lungs. Black Treacle and Suck It And See are the ones that particularly grow on you after you’ve heard them live.
Opening with Don’t Sit Down… was a good choice – it’s fast, fun and a good introduction to the rest of the night. The setlist was, contrary to what I expected, very nicely balanced – the new album was naturally there, but all the big ones from Humbug were played as well and there was a surprising amount of older songs that I didn’t see coming. Especially with titles like Teddy Picker and Mardy Bum in the encore, both of which they had previously said they would never play again. It was a real pleasure to hear those. Unfortunately, the new single Evil Twin didn’t receive a lot of enthusiasm and the following Brick By Brick was not greatly improved by the magical concert ambiance. Thankfully, just then came the wonderful performance of Dance Little Liar and made up for almost everything that’s wrong with the world in a flick.
Speaking of ‘flicking’, let’s not ignore the lights. Their stage setting was definitely a bit more ‘flashy’ than it usually tends to be. That’s not to say that it doesn’t work- it perfectly fits with the feeling of the new album. I mean, it’s not like they stole a rainbow off of the Teletubbies is all I’m saying - just a very nice background for the songs.
It helps, I should also mention, that Alex’s voice has changed a lot since famous Glastonbury 2007. Ever since working on The Last Shadow Puppets it’s started to lose that slight shrillness it had and sound more mellow and secure, especially in the higher notes (though admittedly that’s maybe due more to age and not so much on the collaboration with Miles Kane). With that added to the mix, songs like Do Me A Favour and 505 become amazing to listen to live and the impact of the final ‘…but I crumble completely when you cry’ is just as strong as it should be. I was so glad that they still close with that one – it was the perfect ending to a night full of pleasant surprises.
They’ve definitely still got it and if the unexpected (for me) ‘wow’ didn’t sum that up enough, little else will. It was a great concert – big, energetic and not too constricted within one album. It makes you appreciate Suck It And See more, or at least in a different way, but also goes back to a lot of old favourites and makes them better.
So, what’s next guys? Come on, shock me… I think I’m ready.
1. Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair
2. Teddy Picker
3. Crying Lightning
4. The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala
5. Black Treacle
7. The View From The Afternoon
8. I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor
9. Evil Twin
10. Brick by Brick
11. Dance Little Liar
12. This House Is A Circus
13. Still Take You Home
14. Pretty Visitors
15. She's Thunderstorms
16. Fluorescent Adolescent
17. Do Me A Favour
18. When The Sun Goes Down
19. Suck It and See
20. Mardy Bum
(Alternative live version)