I live in Salford. I go to gigs. I write about the gigs. And other stuff...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Go-Betweens, Liverpool Academy, 10th May 2005

That The Go-Betweens are playing such a small venue tonight is a travesty of epic proportions. That the venue is only half full is beyond belief. I need a reality check. It’s 2005, nineteen years since I first saw the band play at the Leeds Warehouse in front of a slightly larger crowd - they weren't exactly selling out the Apollo during their Eighties heyday.

Openers Songdog look just days away from drawing their pensions. They play to about 10 people, but look like they’re used to it. Theirs is a brand of acoustic Americana favoured by the likes of Uncut magazine. The singer stands hunched over the mic, strumming his acoustic, singing plaintive accounts of past loves, murder, the usual country fare. At least one line in every song implicates him in some form of sexual act, which is not something you’d want to imagine; kind of like thinking about your grandparents going at it. Ugh. His two sidekicks in the meantime, well, don’t really do that much at all: the odd drum flourish here, the occasional guitar lick there, but most of the time they just sit and watch with the rest of us. The restraint is admirable, but borders on plain bone idleness.

One big advantage of small, half-full venues such as this is that you can get right to the front to view your heroes at close quarters. Grant McLennan bounces onto the stage looking slimmer and healthier than I've seen him in a long time. In contrast, Robert Forster looks much less dapper than usual, his suit crumpled and faded, his shoes badly in need of repair. They begin with a track each from their three "comeback" albums all of which serve to reinforce the belief that theirs was one of the more worthwhile comebacks of recent times.

Such is the strength of the Go-B's back catalogue that they can't go wrong tonight. Few bands can even dream of writing songs of the calibre of "To Reach Me", "Cattle And Cane" and "Streets Of Your Town" but tonight we get them in quick succession much to the delight of the fervent crowd. New songs "Here Comes A City" and "Darlinghurst Nights" get rapturous receptions, the former one of very few Go-Betweens songs that wears an influence on its sleeve; in this case Talking Heads' "Life During Wartime". It's brilliant all the same.

With rhythm section Adele Pickvance and Glenn Thompson providing excellent backing Forster and McLennan go from strength to strength, but, great as they sound, I can't help thinking back to that Eighties heyday with Amanda Brown, Lindy Morrisson and Robert Vickers when the band could really hit the heights. What's lacking from this current incarnation is a multi-instrumentalist of the calibre of Amanda Brown - "Bye Bye Pride" just isn't the same without her clarinet weaving in and out of the mix.

Anyway, in the two encores we get superb acoustic renditions of "The Devil's Eye" and "Part Company" and matters are brought to a close with "Bye Bye Pride" and "Dive For Your Memory", four more stonewall classics from yesteryear. The crowd make their way home positively buzzing. And to think they didn't even play "Head Full Of Steam", "Twin Layers Of Lightening", "Five Words", "Spirit Of A Vampyre", "The Clarke Sisters".....


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