In a week in which Canadian pop singer Grimes took to Tumblr to take issue with sexism in the music industry and the use of the words ‘twee’ and ‘waifish’ to describe her and her music anyone attempting to review ex-Bombay Bicycle Club backing vocalist Lucy Rose, has been left scrabbling for new adjectives.
Capitalising on the success of her debut album, Like I Used To, the young singer-songwriter has been touring hard, performing over 100 shows in the last 12 months and supporting the likes of Noah & the Whale.
At last summer’s Leeds festival she looked somewhat overawed by the massive crowd that packed the Festival Republic stage to see her before she’d even released an album and there’s still a degree of tentativeness on show as she plays to an unfamiliar audience.
She’s not helped by the fact that tracks like new single ‘Shiver’ are lost in a mix that pushes wobbly unresolved basslines to the fore.
Playing her acoustic guitar sat down means she’s an uncommanding presence in the cavernous Academy and her stage banter is tepid but the gently rolling, melodic ‘Bikes’ manages a few handclaps.
She may not have the grit or jazzy experimentalism of her heroine Joni Mitchell yet and there remains a suspicion that she doesn’t have the unique narrative voice of her closest contemporary, Laura Marling but there’s no denying that she’s a talented young singer.
By contrast tonight’s headliners Counting Crows have many years of graft under their belts, catapulted to stardom by 1993’s August and Everything After and going on to sell 20 million albums over the past two decades.
Their last album Underwater Sunshine, their first independent release, consisted entirely of covers, several of which are given an outing tonight.
A covers record often appears to be the last resort of the creatively bankrupt but Counting Crows walk a fine line; a faithful rendition of Teenage Fanclub’s ‘Start Again’ is catnip to a Glaswegian audience but others fair less well.
Now expanded to a seven-piece, the group trade instruments after almost every track, giving the set a loose, fluid feel but it’s expressive frontman Adam Duritz who remains the centre of attention, even if nowadays he resembles the rotund lovechild of Sideshow Bob and Ron Jeremy.
Opening with a lengthy ‘Round Here’ the group rove through their back catalogue, giving outings to both popular sing-alongs like ‘Mrs Potter’s Lullaby’ and lesser-known album tracks such as an emotional, spotlit ‘Colorblind’.
The mid-set highpoint is an accordion led version of ‘Omaha’ from their debut album, however the second half suffers from poor pacing with Duritz ambling amiably around the stage and fewer tracks that the audience can join in on, this meandering pace is compounded by his decision to deliver a solo rendition from the piano.
Fortunately the septet redeem themselves with the return of the squeezebox for a fantastic version of ‘Rain King’ that highlights how much heritage they share with REM – both bands grew from the eighties college radio scene to release vibrant, emotive major label records as the new decade began.
Ending the show with renditions of hummable but unspectacular singles ‘Hard Candy’ and ‘Holiday in Spain’ it seems a little disingenuous of them not to give an outing to ‘Mr Jones’, their biggest commercial hit but seeing Duritz conduct the audience as they sing-along to the outro music it seems Glasgow still has plenty of goodwill to offer – “we won’t wait four years to be back” he promises.
So many Counting Crows songs concern themselves with the towns and cities that the band and their audience pass through or return home to but it seems that even far from home they generate excitable audiences.
Words: Max Sefton
Photos: Warrick Beyers