Wednesday, 5 September 2018

The The at the Barrowland Ballroom

Last night I witnessed the highly anticipated and exceptionally executed return of Matt Johnson's The The at the Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom, a venue that Matt described online as their favourite in the UK.

The gig sold out almost immediately and I took to Twitter in the weeks leading up to the event to alert fellow music fans that I was on the hunt for a ticket. Some weeks previously I had sold 2 Jimmy Cliff tickets for his Bandstand show at under face value as I couldn't go. Karma helped me out as I got lucky with a ticket for The The, so lucky that I picked it up at my daughters school gates! Thanks Fiona.

My good friend Phil had bagged a ticket from the off and two of his best friends from down south made the journey up to join him. One, Stephen, is known amongst The The circles for his remarkable collection of The The records, both had already been to see the band on their comeback and were hyped to see them at the Barrowland.

The band were due on at 8.45pm but strolled on to the stage at 8.35pm, dressed immaculately in black and proceeded to treat the packed venue to 2-hours of expertly crafted leftfield pop. 23 songs.

The set flowed superbly, Johnson had assembled a crack band to back him, including Little Barrie (Primal Scream) on guitar. Johnson patrolled the stage when he wasn't playing his guitar, draped his arm around his band mates and generally looked like he was having the time of his life.

He took plenty of time to speak to his devoted audience and his voice was top notch all night. Many will be going to see the band do it all over again at the Royal Concert Hall tonight. One thing that struck me throughout was how immersed in the music everyone was and the bands plea for no filming or photos definitely helped with that - hence I have no pics from last night.

There were many highlights; early on the run of The Beat(en) Generation, Armageddon Days Are Here (Again) and We Can't Stop What's Coming was pretty mind blowing. The band were super tight and Johnson's voice was soulful and true, the audience hung on every word, many knew them all.

We can't hate the river for flowing
Can't blame the wild wind blowing
Can't slow time from running
We can't stop what's coming

The beautiful flowing This Is The Day got an extra loud ovation, the crowd singing heartily;

This is the day, your life will surely change
This is the day, when things fall into place

The band were in their element as the set reached its climax, a cover of Hank Williams I Saw The Light was loud, raw and soulful and the subsequent run of songs through to I've Been Waiting For Tomorrow (All My Life) was spine tinglingly good.

Johnson returned to the stage alone after the encore, delivering a beautiful True Happiness This Way Lies, it is safe to say that this show brought true happiness to a lot of people. The band returned and Johnson introduced Uncertain Smile as the song you've all been waiting for.

What followed was a real Barrowland moment for me. I didn't time it, but this was the full 12-inch version of the song and the extended instrumental section was truly sublime, the piano solo as the band grooved was utterly magical. I won't forget this performance for a long time.

There was enough time for Matt and his band to reach into their catalogue for one more and the lyrics of Lonely Planet made perfect sense;

If you can't change the world, change yourself
And if you can't change yourself, change the world

This was an astonishing performance, as good as I have seen at the Barrowland. Johnson's lyrics, voice and craft were captivating. I hope they return to their favourite venue again next year.

Global Eyes
Sweet Bird of Truth
Flesh and Bones
The Beat(en) Generation
Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)
We Can't Stop What's Coming
Beyond Love
Love Is Stronger Than Death
Dogs of Lust
Helpline Operator
This Is the Night
This Is the Day
Soul Catcher
Bugle Boy
I Saw The Light
Slow Emotion Replay
Like a Sun Risin' Thru My Garden
I've Been Waitin' for Tomorrow (All of My Life)

True Happiness This Way Lies
Uncertain Smile
Lonely Planet


Fraser said...

It was the low register of his voice that got me, absolutely flawless.

Phil Teer said...

I saw them at the Troxy in London. Great gig and a perfectly timed returned. To me they were the soundtrack to the end of political hope as Thatcherism swallowed everything. Beaten generation indeed. Now they are back on the road just as politics is getting interesting again. Lovely review.