REVIEW: The Twilight Sad (and support) at The Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow

It felt like a moment 12 years in the making. The sense of anticipation in the leadup to The Twilight Sad’s Barrowlands gig was fierce – their last outing in 2015 at perhaps the world’s greatest venue was already the stuff of legend, and everything has changed in the interim.A new lineup. A new label. Fatherhood. Personal tragedy. A chart-topping record that exceeded the expectations of even the most devout fans. Add in a sold out tour, and for those who had been around since the beginning, you could be forgiven for thinking that the world had suddenly fallen off it’s axis.

Fiskur began proceedings as the Ballroom filled quickly with punters keen to make a night of it. The follow-up project of Ross Clark after the dissolution of his previous band, Three Blind Wolves, he has collaborated with Frightened Rabbit’s Andy Monaghan to see the pair cut their own take on the classic indie guitar sound. Already identified by Vic Galloway as ones to watch in 2019, their set is full of solid, thoughtful tracks which will surely be destined for future singalongs.

Michael Timmons has shared the lineup with The Twilight Sad and James Graham’s excellent side project Out Lines on a few previous occasions, so his work is instantly recognisable by most in attendance. Playing songs from his debut LP “Bone Coloured”; the soft, lingering tracks might at first seem an odd pairing for the headliner, but they’re delivered with enough melancholy to hit home. Michael’s upcoming show at King Tuts will undoubtedly be attended by many who were here tonight, and that is thanks in no small part to his effortlessly pleasing vocal and stirring melodies.

Room packed to bursting, The Twilight Sad arrived onstage to deafening applause. It was a hero’s welcome that bordered on the evangelical: disciples had travelled far and wide to see their leaders, and everybody wanted to be here and nobody wanted to leave. As strobe lights jarred against the behemoth backdrop of DLT’s cover art for “It Won/t Be Like This All The Time”, the band propelled their new record’s opening track “10 Good Reasons For Modern Drugs” forward at the writhing masses. Those who had been in attendance at shows during the previous week were quick to notice that James singing parts were in a lower register, sparking concerns that his voice may have been impacted by the recent schedule. The song didn’t suffer for it however, it’s delivery as sinister and accusatory as ever.

As the standard set changed to see “Last January” from “Nobody Wants to be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave” follow the opener, it soon became known that James was indeed struggling – and that there was every chance the show may have been pulled at the last minute. This is the thing about The Twilight Sad, though: they knew what this gig meant not only to them, but to their fanbase; and despite it requiring a gargantuan amount of effort (“I’ve always said we’re in this together, and you guys are the only way we’re going to get through this tonight”), they are not in the business of disappointing people.

“The Arbor” has quickly become a live staple and it’s swirling guitars were never more captivating. Trance-like and pleading, the solemn refrain of “Why did you leave in the night?” bore into the hearts of many as James rocked back and forth, a sonic puppet to the song’s Geppetto. Eternally stoic, Andy Macfarlane was strictly details as he steered the ship ever forward, providing the perfect framework for new kit recruit Sebastien Schultz to deliver solid repetitive blows to the head as these songs launched forth and overcame us all.

“Cold Days From The Birdhouse” was met with an invitation from James to sing as loud as we could. As the love in the room lifted the song up, you could practically feel it being carried off into the ether; or at least as far as the nearby green hills where longtime friend Scott Hutchison now rests. Openly emotional, James was clearly taken aback yet simultaneously buoyed by what the audience was doing, and it seems that even in the wake of a chart-topping record and sold out tour, he still to this day might not fully comprehend how much his band means to us all.

Everyone was expecting Frightened Rabbit’s “Keep Yourself Warm” – and yet despite it having been in the live set for nearly 9 months now, the emotional weight of the moment and the venue added a whole new level of meaning, and large pockets of the crowd could be seen tearing up and holding each other. This is in essence what makes the Scottish music scene so great: there is a camaraderie here that goes beyond simple mateship, it is akin to the supportive nature of family. For all that Scott Hutchison gave, how his loss can still be felt so acutely by musicians and fans alike is truly remarkable, and he has unknowingly created a legacy of people looking out for others and showing that it’s okay to struggle.

As James Graham whispered the words “standing outside… looking in” whilst white shards of light flickered off the canopy of stars that covers the Ballroom, you couldn’t help but be filled with gratitude for these artists, and the way they so perfectly capture the human condition. As the reverb played out and everyone spilled onto the street into the crisp chill of the evening, I looked up, and thanked gods I don’t believe in for this incredible band, and the cages they help us all free ourselves from.

Words by Sarah Moses. 

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