Now this really is a unique experience, to see contemporary live music in the world’s oldest surviving music hall and to be able to enjoy it with a drink in hand.
The Britannia does have strict rules on the hiring out of the venue and certainly volume restrictions, due to the age of the venue rather than complaints of neighbours, which limit opportunities to witness live music in the venue, short of the odd cabaret night.
However, tonight Nokia and La Blogotheque have invited Sheffield folk rock duo Slow Club along as part of their Lumia Live Sessions, a series of gigs showcasing the country’s upcoming musical talent in unusual venues – tonight is the fourth of these gigs and the first in Glasgow, to do what we thought we might never witness again, contemporary music at the Britannia.
As you enter the venue through the amusements on the Trongate and up the stairs you instantly feel you’ve been transported back to the early 1900s surrounded by old advertisements and banners in a space that you can image was quite a grandiose little auditorium in its time.
After being rediscovered at the turn of the millennium the Britannia has been continually worked on by a team of dedicated volunteers, now it stands a valuable relic of a time past and one I’d suggest getting along to witness even if just in one of their bi-weekly museum openings.
And it would appear that support for the night, French Wives, would agree as singer Stuart Dougan seems bowled over with the honour of playing here, stating that he’d always wanted to play here since the first time he visited the place.
French Wives themselves play a stripped back set far removed from their usual raucous indie pop performances, and delight the lucky 200 or so guests, it’s difficult to believe 1500 people would cram themselves in this space back in 19th century, with a more intricate affair.
Performing initially as a trio then, bringing in percussion and bass mid set, they captivate the crowd with delightful set of minimal pop songs with warm harmonies and gentle, beautiful arrangements of their more foot stomping original material.
Slow Club don’t really have to alter their material much for the venue, maybe just in volume, but from the off they’re a joy to behold as the duo consisting of Rebecca Taylor and Charles Watson charm the crowd with catchy folk rock and enthusiastic and comical stage banter.
The ever-chirpy Taylor takes the lead in terms of chat but they both contribute in equal measures to their upbeat songs as the small audience gets a sneak peak at their forthcoming third album material along with some old favourites.
After a short but sweet set that has you liking this duo more with every passing minute, one of the venues volunteers takes on the pedal piano and enthusiastically encourages us to sing along with an old time number dating back to the early 1900s.
Meanwhile the duo slink off backstage, albeit not that subtly, only to reappear minutes later for an encore on the off limits to punters balcony, a wonderful end to special night as the lucky attendees stare up in awe of their surroundings and the band finish things off in a typically high-spirited style.
This may well be the first time the Britannia has seen a show of this type, and possibly the first time it’s witnessed live contemporary music in around a century, but everyone in here is hoping that it won’t be the last, the Lumia Live sessions may not have uncovered someone as iconic as Stan Laurel (who made is debut in the venue aged 16 in 1906), but they may have set wheels in motion for an iconic venue to be brought back into the contemporary.
Words: Iain Dawson
Photos: Beth Chalmers