The Twilight Sad know how to come out of the starting blocks, they take to the stage before a jam-packed Grand Ole Opry, sans cowboy britches and stilettos, and tear into ‘Kill It in the Morning’ from new album No One Can Ever Know.
An unusual choice, certainly – ‘Kill It in the Morning’, if anything, sounds like a song more comfortable with the recording studio than the stage – but the audience are soon surprised, as mystic keyboard, thundering bass and James Graham’s commanding stage presence work in perfect synergy from the off.
‘Don’t Move’ proves similarly adaptable to the live environment, a dark prose poem of a song, and Andy MacFarlane’s low-slung guitar sounds tyrannosaurus-huge when fed through the venue’s PA.
Graham himself is an entrancing figure on stage, all steely gazes into the middle distance, silent screams as he holds the mic away from his face and jarring, dislocated dancing.
He holds the crowd’s attention like a particularly skilled orator, and, on ‘That Summer at Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy’, like a veritable puppetmaster; heads nod in dreamy appreciation for this most cherished of songs.
Who’d have thought the line “the kids are on fire in the bedroom” – screamed as it is by Graham – would inspire such catharsis, such shivers down the spine? Spine-tingling sums the aura of this gig up
The crowd break into raucous applause after each song, and new numbers ‘Dead City’ and ‘Alphabet’ sound particularly glorious.
Simple, slashing and spurious strobe lights dart left and right across the stage of this worn gun club, as mesmeric harmonies and powerful bass hooks blast out of the speakers, and Graham continues his catatonic stares into the audience.
While the almighty ‘I Became a Prostitute’ is one of the absolute highlights of the night, a surging, triumphant salvo of heartache, the one-two punch of ‘Sick’ and ‘Another Bed’ convince those who have not yet picked up the new album to do so: fast; like, right fucking now.
While there is little between-song banter, who needs it? This band dispense with the contrived frivolities to focus on delivering where it matters.
‘Cold Days From the Birdhouse’ is given a nice twist, played out as feedback rings from the speakers and Graham more or less takes it home a capella.
New track ‘Nil’ is almost impossibly beautiful, snarling yet subtle, beautiful yet brutal, Graham’s line, “is that you, son?/is what ye used to say” delivered like the first line of some Shakespearean sonnet.
Old favourite ‘And She Would Darken the Memory’ changes pace a little, with a more even-handed rock approach, before the band wrap things up on the churning ‘At the Burnside’; no encore; no need.
Before departing, Graham thanks the crowd with genuine humility, seemingly shocked by the turnout.
He needn’t be; The Twilight Sad have produced three great albums on the trot, and continue to exemplify the kind of energy, subtlety and integrity that will attract passionate and devoted fans from all over the world.
Let’s hope they return from their US tour to take their show to the Barrowlands later in the year: I’ll be there.
Words: Ronnie McCluskey
Photos: Jenny Anderson