Commonwealth Games Opening Party with Belle and Sebastian, Les Johnson at Kelvingrove Bandstand, 23/7/14

With temperatures in Glasgow reaching heights akin to the more exotic regions of the Commonwealth, Kelvingrove Park’s previously derelict bandstand makes an ideal venue for an evening of scorching summer pop.

Getting tickets to see Belle and Sebastian at this intimate event takes the art of luck, nerves of steel and monk like reflexes as with tickets gone in minutes many fans where left disappointed.

 

Beginning to write music aged 46, the now 53 year old Les Johnson and his ragtag rockabilly outfit including members of The Shivering Sheiks, contribute a metamorphosing taste of Glaswegian Americana.

Opening the show, Johnson’s bellowing voice encapsulates nostalgia for early rock ‘n’ roll and Southern style, spiritual music while remaining unmistakably Scottish.

Booming double bass, mandolin, the strains of fiddle and harmonies create a sound from which you can almost hear the crackling of a Sun Records 78; songs ‘I’m Gonna Blame you Marvin’ and ‘15 Hands’ are worth looking out for, while bittersweet ballads recalling the memories of childhood seem to conjure the ghosts of the family stage, finally restored to its former glory.

After a screening of films about the bandstand and the previous games in Deli, Belle and Sebastian begin there set.

Entering the stage to ‘I Belong to Glasgow’ the band (who could put together a medium sized sports team) wear maroon tracksuits in tribute of the sporting occasion.

A stylophone driven instrumental eases the band into ’I’m a Cuckoo’ then suitably ‘Another Sunny Day’.

Stewart Murdoch’s promise to trawl the archive’s and play a set of songs written “within a three mile radius of the park” receives a rapturous applause.

‘Stars of Track and Field’ is the first song the band play from there Jeepster days and doesn’t differ from the sublime ‘If You’re Feeling Sinister’, with the exception of the hushed mumbling of lyrics by two thousand fans.

There isn’t much deviation at all from the recordings with the notable exception of ’Piazza New York Catcher’, the stripped back shanty is replaced by a country style arrangement, including a harmonica part played by Stevie Jackson, this at first awkward mashing of genres turns out to be a surprise highlight of a set with few surprises.

The standard ‘Boy with the Arab Strap’ clap along happens predictably on cue though it’s clear none of the tangle of fans onstage are complaining, before ‘Judy and the Dream of Horses’ triumphantly close this home coming set.

Alas no matter how hard the notoriously nasty Belle and Sebastian fans boo a flummoxed Vic Galloway, there can be no encore, instead we are over to a live link of Parkhead.

Are Belle and Sebastian a more apt representation of Glasgow than dancing Tea Cakes? Perhaps, but for those here this show will go down as much more important than Barroman’s pissing on being Scottish over to the east.

More photos

Words: Peter Johnstone
Photos: Stewart Fullerton

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