Live Review: Giant Sand, Broadcast, Glasgow, 23rd April 2024

While Howe Gelb is undoubtedly Giant Sand, the band members behind him revolve and rotate, sometimes dizzyingly so. Tonight’s line up was a basic trio with Giant Sand veteran Tommy Larkins on drums and Brian Lopez on bass guitar (his first outing on such it appears) while Gelb slashed and burned on guitar. Larkins, after parting with Giant Sand is known for his decades’ long collaboration with Jonathan Richman while Lopez, aside from his solo career, has been a member of Calexico and XIXA. This was a loud and raucous Giant Sand, reminiscent of the searing “desert rock” heard on albums such as ‘Valley Of Rain’, the trio powering away although there was plenty of light and shade within the songs, many of them taken from Gelb’s vast back catalogue. A case in point was the opening number which kicked off as a mutant Guitars from Mars instrumental with Gelb tossing out squalling notes before it settled into a rendition of ‘Up On The Hill’, originally a folky song from the first Blacky Ranchette album although settled is not quite correct as the band punctuated the song with several more fiery blasts.

Dressed in boiler suits for some reason (men at work?) the trio then proceeded to gyre and gimble their way through some classics. As ever, Howe Gelb rarely takes a direct route from the beginning to the end of a song, preferring to let the song find its own direction and so it was on thrilling renditions of songs such as ‘Yer Ropes’, ‘Wearing The Robes Of Bible Black’ and ‘Moon Over Memphis’. This was quite intense as Larkins’ powered the songs and Gelb at times channelled the likes of Neil Young with his guitar skills which are quite spectacular but are performed in a most casual manner. Perhaps the most riveting song of the night was when they weighed into ‘Shiver’ with Gelb’s daughter Tallulah (also in a boiler suit) joining them on vocals, the song sloping along in an engagingly ramshackle manner although never losing their way. Tallulah then remained on stage thereafter to complement her dad’s vocals.

Gelb paid tribute to his late friend and band member Rainer on ‘The Farm’ while a new song, ‘Lazy Bee’ was a wonderfully lop sided blast of country rock. Tallulah then had her chance to shine on her rendition of the Velvet Underground’s ‘Femme Fatale’ with Lopez singing harmony, bringing an all too short set to a close. There was of course an encore as the packed crowd in this sweaty basement demanded one. First of was a rip roaring ‘Tumble And Tear’, a blast from the archives and delivered with some ferocity, sounding as if Gelb was channelling the L.A. punk band X before ending with a surprising rendition of ‘We’ll Meet Again’, that old Vera Lynn chestnut. Odd enough but then oddity is part and parcel of Howe Gelb and we should all glad for that.

About Paul Kerr 438 Articles
Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.
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