Sunday, 7 January, 2024 in Music

Into Live Music Review: The Men They Couldn’t Hang

Concert: The Men They Couldn’t Hang
Venue: Glasgow Oran Mor
Date: 1 December 2023

Music. It can be pretty much anything from euphoric to celebratory, sad to poignant and all steps in between. Moments, memories, loose threads, a snatch in time from months, years, decades ago can be recalled in the blink of an eye yet most of us struggle to recall what we did two weeks ago. That’s the power of music, it captures feelings, emotions, the zeitgeist like nothing else.   

I once again had the pleasure of seeing The Men They Couldn’t Hang play live in Glasgow, always a special show. As the big man mentioned to me, this was the twelfth time we’d seen them together. A chance then to reminisce, have a few beers and to hopefully experience some new musical moments. Part way through, Tom Spencer introduced the track Salutations, written by their late singer Stefan Cush about his local pub. Cush may have been taken from us far too soon in 2021 but his spirit lives on, in that room tonight and through our TMTCH memories. 

It was also only twenty-four hours since the death of The Pogues singer Shane MacGowan. Of course, TMTCH and The Pogues go way back, Cush having been a roadie for The Pogues, TMTCH’s first gig was at the same festival where both bands played and debut album Night Of A Thousand Candles was part-produced by Philip Chevron. Loose threads, weaving their way into those memories again. A beautiful cover of A Rainy Night In Soho was both touching and moving. Tears? Yes, a few were shed and I know I wasn’t the only one. Music – that’s what it can do. 

I was talking to two pals in the run up to and at the gig about their late brother, Kieran, who died in 2019. Our friendship was forged on a love of The Men They Couldn’t Hang. Seeing them at Stirling University when we were fiteen or sixteen. Going to see The Pogues at the Barras and travelling to their Finsbury Park gig in London when we were seventeen. The exuberance of youth, laughing, drinking, flirting, dancing, fearless, not one jot given, this was our time, our moment, We were invincible. Or so we thought.  A chance then to reminisce some more, we knew Kieran would have loved this. A glass was raised, a prayer, the memories coming flooding back and a smile. Music, it’s always the music.

The band of course were great. Pleasingly, the set was far from predictable with the inclusion of new songs such as Red Kite Rising, One More Ride and Running On Ice. In addition, the likes of The Lion and the Unicorn and Gold Rush got an airing so plenty to keep TMTCH afficionados interested. 

I’m also going to state that The Men They Couldn’t Hang are in fact Scottish. Bass player Ricky McGuire hails from Kilbirnie, singer Phil “Swill” Odgers was born in Oban and spent his early years in Scotland while singer/guitarist Tom Spencer stated that genealogy tests confirm he is 6% Scottish! No further proof is needed, they’re ours!! 

Elsewhere, Bounty Hunter was verging on the raucous, The Bells was sublimely nuanced and Ironmasters was an absolute blast. The drums loud, while Simmonds (mandolin), Odgers (guitar), Spencer (guitar) and McGuire (bass), were like four gun-slingers at the front of the stage, menacingly shooting out punk-tinged folk in all its glory. 

Music, tying together those loose threads, making memories and bottling the vibes and emotions. There really is nothing like it. A night to remember? You bet. 

For Shane, Cush and Kieran. Requiescant in pace.  

Keep up to date with The Men They Couldn’t Hang via their website here

John Welsh





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