Music Review: Glasvegas and Ida Maria at the Black Cat

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Smoke machine and moody stage lights? Check. Band members in coordinated black outfits? Check. The atmospheric guitar sound that Edge and Flood perfected 20 years ago? Check. A batch of memorable songs? Thud.

Scottish rockers Glasvegas sold out the Black Cat on Thursday night, but it was hard to tell why, based on a listless, one-dimensional performance. Opening number "Geraldine" showed off every trick in the band's limited arsenal, a mid-tempo march in which guitarist Rab Allan's piercing lead stood out above the din, while vocalist James Allan (his cousin) did a bit of anguished wailing. It was a song with stadium-rock ambitions that couldn't quite fill a mid-size rock club. When that's the best song of the set, there are serious problems. Everything that followed was a more limp version of "Geraldine," never blasting into overdrive or picking up the pace, always languishing in that tepid middle ground. Rarely has music so loud been so sleepy.

Glasvegas was especially a downer after the opening set by Norwegian firecracker Ida Maria. Unlike most of the current crop of Scandinavian singers, there's nothing pint-size or pixieish about her. She's tall, has shaggy hair, wore a baggy T-shirt with "I SOLD MY SOUL FOR ROCK AND ROLL" emblazoned on the back, and raced through some brash and boozy songs that gave that phrase some credence and established her as a sort of updated version of Joan Jett. Her scratchy voice suggested she's spent too much time screaming offstage and projected an old-school sexuality that had nothing to do with looks. The closing combo of head-rush pop gems "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked" and the appropriately orgasmic "Oh My God" would have made it tough for any act to follow, let alone one as dull as Glasvegas.

-- David Malitz

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