Last Night: Ida Maria, Glasvegas at The Loft

Ida Maria, Glasvegas
The Loft
August 4, 2009

Better than: taking a group of foreign exchange students to the mall.

Glasvegas and its flashy set.
Glasvegas and its flashy set.
Nico Martini

It took 20 minutes for it to happen, but, finally, here it was: some palpable, legitimate energy about the room at The Loft during Glasvegas' set. It was all coming together--the band's performance, its fairly impressive light show, the crowd's reaction to it all--as frontman James Allan led his Glasgow-based band and the curious crowd through a rousing rendition of the repetitive, but undoubtedly catchy, "Go Square Go," off the band's self-titled 2008 debut album.

To the surprise of even Allan--or so it appeared, as he paced the stage smiling and clapping to the beat--the crowd was taking the lead on the track's vocals, chanting its "Get away, get away, here we fucking go," refrain high above the rooms loud mix.

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Suddenly, the clearly worn-from-the-road band's so-so set didn't seem like it was going to be the disappointment it appeared it might be heading toward.

Then, inexplicably, the band vacated the stage, replaced by its guitar, bass and drum techs, who took the band members' places and began tuning their instruments. Talk about a buzzkill.

Because, even though the band would return to the stage just a few mintes later, offering another 15 minutes of performances to the Loft crowd, the band never again approached the peak it had reached with "Go Square Go." 

With the band book-ending its performance with its biggest singles, "Geraldine" and "Daddy's Gone," respectively, the fairweather fans who had come to curiously watch Glasvegas perform seemed mostly lost. And though Allan and his bandmates tried their hardest to emote and posture the crowd's energy levels back up, the audience was more a collection of watchers than active participants. As a result, the the band's every move was being judged and scrutinized, putting a heavy load on the band's shoulders--and one it couldn't quite carry. At least not with drummer Caroline McKay, who uses no cymbals in her kit, keeping a somewhat sloppy beat to the otherwise sheen sound.

Opening act Ida Maria fared considerably better. Though the Norwegian's vocals seemed even more road-strained than Allan's, the husky-voiced Maria charmed the room with her candid, humorous asides to the audience, in which she boasted about her "Viking arms" and invited the audience to come feel them after her set. It helped, of course, that Maria's music is of a more digestible pop variety than Glasvegas' bombast-rock; with set-closers "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked" and "Oh My God," Maria had the whole room tapping its feet and dancing along. It also helped that the audience, no doubt attending this show to get a first glimpse at two of the hottest, most critically acclaimed new acts in Europe, seemed as familiar, if not more so, with Maria's material as it was with the headliner's.

As first glances go, the night's offerings from these two new, promising acts were, as a whole, fairly so-so. As these two return to the region in the future, though, they seem likely to be more improved and battle-tested, rather than just battle-worn.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
Of the two acts on the bill, I, as much of the audience appeared, was more familiar with Maria's work than Glasvegas', although eager to take in performances from both acts, as both of these young acts' material is impressive on record.

By The Way: The frontman of a well-known rock act from the region was in attendance at last night's show--also, he said while looking bored during Glasvegas' set, specifically to check out Ida Maria's performance.


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