Live Review: Barbara Manning + Gerard Love, Glad Café, Glasgow – 30th July 2023

It was no surprise really that this last date of Barbara Manning’s first solo tour of the UK was sold out, given that tickets for the majority of her previous shows had been rarer than hens’ teeth (or Taylor Swift briefs). Manning, a “cult” artist if there ever was one, has long been a favourite of those who seem to inhale music as opposed to air and, again no surprise, the movers and shakers of the Glasgow independent music scene came out to see her. To be clear, there were no tik-tokkers or influencers here. These were the people who have played, performed, managed, wrote about or sold and bought the records of a host of artists over the past four decades- some who remain cults and some who gained some wider recognition such as Alex Chilton, the Paisley Undergound crew and of course, Glasgow’s own jangled pop/rock bands. It was somewhat fitting that Manning’s support act tonight was Gerard Love, ex of Teenage Fanclub.

So, it was a full house, hot and sweaty, but Manning, playing solo with her glorious spangled Gretsch guitar, was on terrific form. She’d already met about half of the audience beforehand as she sat in the adjacent bar, signing age old (and rare) vinyl and reminiscing with many who had encountered her before. As she came on stage she expressed her joy at being here and how humbled she was to have Love as her support act as bands like Teenage Fanclub and The Pastels were, to her mind, “superstars.” This of course delighted the crowd and from there on she couldn’t put a foot wrong.

Aside from her own songs, Manning has a reputation for her idiosyncratic cover versions and tonight she opened with her rendition of New Zealand’s The Verlaine’s’ ‘Joed Out’. She admitted that, in typical fashion, she changed some of the lyrics and some of the chords, and then added that The Verlaine’s Graeme Downes didn’t mind. A calm opening, sweet and quite glorious, it set the scene as Manning then upped the tempo on ‘Never Park’ scrubbing away at her guitar and with her voice quite enchanting. Memories of bands like Young Marble Giants and The Go- Betweens were summoned and were then amplified on the following ‘Sympathy Wreath’.

Manning told us of her penchant for writing songs with other artists in mind (including George Jones) before playing ‘Someone Wants You Dead’, composed by her in the hope that Volcano Suns might record it. They didn’t but it went down a treat tonight with its gothic lyrics. Next up was perhaps the highlight of the night as Manning sang her best known song ‘Scissors’, accompanied by a local fan (called Archie) who had brought along a pair of scissors to replicate the unique rhythm track of the original recording.  This was not only a hoot, it actually worked as the snip-snip of the blades could be clearly heard amidst the frantically scrubbed guitar work.

Manning’s eclectism and dark humour were displayed on some more cover versions as she sang her take on The Moody Blues’ ‘Story In Your Eyes’ and then the deliciously miserable Richard Thompson song ‘End Of The Rainbow’ which she wickedly dedicated to her god daughter. A new song, ‘Cantor’s Mind (Was Rocking)’ was inspired by an obscure 19th Century German mathematician and proved that Manning still can write catchy jangled pop songs. Pausing to take a selfie of her and the crowd (to prove to her husband that it happened),  Manning closed with ‘Deep See Diver’, chugging out a fantastic nugget’s styled garage rock riff on her guitar and then leaving the ecstatic audience baying for more.

Unusually, for a support act, the room was full to the brim to see Gerard Love play on his home turf (almost literally as he explained that he had lived for a short while in a tenement flat above the venue). Accompanied by Tom Crossley of The Pastels on flute and keyboards Love promised to play some rarities and old chestnuts and did so with the songs delivered very much in the ethereal and slightly pastoral vein of his latest band Lightships. ‘Muddy River’ was very impressive as was ‘Thin Air’, an old Teenage Fanclub song. A couple of new songs were aired but the biggest cheer of the night was for the pair’s last song, ‘Sparky’s Dream’ which had the audience singing along.

About Paul Kerr 439 Articles
Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.
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