Little Comets, Eliza and the Bear at Saint Luke’s, 16/2/17

There’s something very special about going to see a band who you’ve seen play live many times, knowing that with each gig they bring a new refinement to their sound while paying their dues to dedicated fans.

The queue for Saint Luke’s is right out the door and fans are already jostling to the front from the start of Eliza and the Bear’s supporting set.

The London-based quintet offer an energetic stream of power pop (think Coasts and Saint Raymond), winning the crowd with handclaps, smiles and euphoric riffs, closing on ‘Friends’, which garners a respectable singalong.

Eliza and the Bear are no great indie innovators, but what they do is solid and fun and clearly a hit with tonight’s younger audience; definitely ones to watch for this year’s festival circuit.

Little Comets arrive to play a jam-packed set of new songs delivered in-between favourites from their burgeoning back catalogue.

A couple tracks in, lead singer Rob Coles announces that tonight’s gig almost didn’t happen; his brother Mickey (the band’s lead guitarist) found himself a father two weeks earlier than planned.

As a result, a mysterious hero called Reuben stepped in and learned the entire set in a day, allowing the band to maintain their trademark tightness throughout.

The set opens with ‘A Little Opus’ from sophomore album, Life is Elsewhere; like many Little Comets songs, it combines lush, shimmery guitar licks, bright percussion and bouncy drums with sharply witty and politically-fringed lyrics about privileged kids and the old boys’ network.

Since they aren’t a band to deliver an ideology through ranting stage chat, the lyrics speak for themselves and unlike most of their musical peers, Little Comets tackle issues beyond the usual indie theme of heartache: misogyny, social inequality, political corruption and poverty are condemned with a twist of rhyming wit; while fatherhood, love and relationships are explored in a way that avoids cliché and feels fresh, endearing and slightly eccentric: “she goes to Boots, I go to Argos / complete with deceit, we stalk each aisle”.

‘Isles’ gets a rare outing on the set-list, perhaps because its vision of a bleak, small-minded Britain has just as much credence now in post-Brexit times as it did back in the recession days of 2011 when the song was released.

Regardless of the politics, such tracks are carried off successfully with both musical precision and a commitment to quotidian themes.

Little Comets have clearly matured from their on-stage pots’n’pans, kitchen sink indie days, and while I miss the quirky percussion, the new maturity in their song-writing isn’t at the expense of the band’s uniquely lyrical vision of everyday Britain.

The tracks from upcoming release Worhead are sprinkled throughout the set, giving the audience a chance to digest them in-between familiar numbers; ‘Hunting’, ‘Louise’, and ‘Common Things’ in particular stand out as gems from the new album.

These fresh songs focus on tender vocals and catchy refrains, preceding or mixed alongside heavier, experimental riffs and crunchy bass; allowing for exciting, multi-guitar solos that prove the band’s passion for musical deftness while never seeming cheesy or too rock’n’roll.

At times there is a slight sense of disconnect which seems to come largely from a younger crowd not paying attention, but the band quickly regain the room’s focus with lively favourites such as ‘Adultery’, ‘Jennifer’ and ‘Worry’, and after every song the reaction is strongly positive, met with fist-pumps and singalongs.

‘The Blur, the Line, and the Thickest of Onions’ shines out as always; a song that makes a sly dig at mainstream pop’s misogyny while crafting something beautiful and minimalistic around sombre chords and Coles’ hypnotic vocal gymnastics.

Perhaps due to Mickey’s absence, there are less lingering vocal harmonies tonight than in previous live shows; however, this positively intensifies their appearance here, where the soaring notes spread an electric shiver across the room.

Ever keen to reject the aura of performative cool, Coles tells the audience that he prefers not to do encores since he sees himself as someone who simply writes songs, not a rock-star; in typical Glasgow fashion, the crowd lay it on thick with brushes of local colour, as one over-eager fan bellows I’LL SHAG YE! mid-speech – Coles looks bemused but also frustrated that he isn’t being taken seriously, and it’s a reminder of his refreshing earnestness.

Later, while some of the young fans trickle out to catch lifts home, the audience quietens down respectfully as Coles delivers an emotional, vocally-nuanced ‘Woman, Woman’ alone onstage before the band re-join to fire through ‘Bridge Burn’, a new song and crowd-pleasing closer, ‘Dancing Song’ which has a healthy chunk of fans moshing down the front.

For a band who proclaim “language is dead” at the start of one of their most popular songs (‘One Night in October’), Little Comets write lyrics which are intelligent, poetic and very much alive; as my friend says at the gig, they’re a band who make you want to look things up in the dictionary, and yet this never feels pretentious or contrived but somehow necessary, an attention to detail you struggle to see in much copycat indie.

This attention to detail applies not just to the lyrics and Coles’ handwriting, whose distinct curls adorn instruments and album covers alike, but to the music too and tonight is no exception; Little Comets leave the crowd energised, keen for the new album and hopefully a little more educated.

Words: Maria Sledmere

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