Tuesday, 21 May, 2024 in Music

Into Live Music Review: Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band

Headline: Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band
Support: Jack Valero
Venue: Mackintosh Queen’s Cross Church, Glasgow
Date: 2 May 2024

The venue for this gig was a new one for me but due to its excellent acoustics, hopefully it will be the first of many to attend there. The Mackintosh Church originally came to life in the late 19th century when a young trainee architect by the name of Charles Rennie Mackintosh was given the job of designing and developing from a commission by the then Free Church of St.Matthew. Today, the church, a vital part of his esteemed legacy, is maintained by the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society and has become a regular venue for concerts. 

Pleasingly, a strong crowd was in early to see the support act Jack Valero and that turned out to be an inspired choice. The young Brighton based troubadour took to the stage without his usual band for a solo outing, with just a guitar and microphone for company but he quickly settled in and won the crowd over from the get go. 
New single Always Something You Can Do was delivered in a different key to most of Valero’s previous releases and as he strained every vocal sinew to hit the high spots, he still managed to make it sound effortless. 
Jack Valero
One thing that that did strike me was how at ease Valero was between songs, easily discussing the background to the tracks (including one written for a young woman who will become Mrs Valero later this year) and outlining the different vibe between playing with a full band to the more stripped back sound on the night. No more so than on Heaven Help Me, a sombre lament with a hypnotic guitar dictating the pace perfectly. 
The short set concluded with the upbeat energy of Pull Back The Hammer and I’m pretty certain I could see some of the audience sitting in the church pews shaking their hips, moving and dancing. I suspect we will be hearing a lot more from the talented young singer-songwriter that is Jack Valero. Go check him out. via his website here
And so to the main act, Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band and if I am brutally honest here, I am not sure I can put into words what I and the rest of the audience experienced. But first, let’s go back a while to 17 January 2000 which saw the NME Premier Tour hit Glasgow and the first time I saw Shack (Michael Head’s old band). Melodies and harmonies dripping in quality, lyrics both heart wrenching and humorous, to borrow a Liverpudlian phrase, they are “boss” and I am eternally smitten. Support act Coldplay, not so much. Whatever happened to them? 
The last few years have seen a renaissance from Head, forming The Red Elastic Band and releasing two albums – Adios Senor Pussycat and Dear Scott – the latter of which was produced by the mercurial Bill Ryder-Jones, back on production duties for the upcoming long player Loophole which lands on 17 May. 
The set centred on the new album so it was a chance for those in attendance to hear some of the tunes played before the record’s release. There was also plenty of older material throughout the well balanced setlist. 
Head was adept at introducing the songs and providing some wonderful anecdotes. These ranged from the funny story of Roddy Frame showing Mick a particularly tricky chord, one which has taken him years to perfect and features on the new record, alongside a tale of Robbie Fowler signing for Liverpool. Mick also dedicated a song to Gerry Considine, a big fan of the band who sadly passed away in the days before the show. Gerry’s son and best friend were there for what was a real poignant moment. 
Part way through, Broken Beauty was followed by Streets Of Kenny and the double volley was enough to see the crowd stand to applaud the band. a special moment and we were only eight songs in. Most bands don’t get this type of reception at the end of a gig. Not your ordinary show, that’s for sure. 
Ambrosia followed, a new one which looked back to days in Shack and referenced Glasgow in the lyrics, while Connamara and Merry-Go-Round were laden with intricate subtleties, the music melding into honeyed aural textures and I swear I could see the musical notes and clefs emerge from the trumpet and soar off into the ether. 
Stranger (from the Waterpistol album) followed and we were treated to a jazzy mash up in the outro before the fast paced Newby Street almost blew the bloody doors off. 
Before we knew it, ninety minutes or so was up. We were now in to added time and the crowd wanted more. Step forward The Red Elastic Band with Michael Head getting the last minute winner with a sensational cover of Love’s A House Is Not A Motel
The Liverpudlian Lou Reed remains unassuming, down to earth and is one of us. He gets it. For that, Mick Head is without doubt a God-like genius. 

For more on Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band head to their website here.

John Welsh





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