Another sold-out night at King Tut’s, and a Tuesday in February to boot. There must be more of us who remember Geneva than we (or they) imagined.
The gig kicked off with China Bears, a young indie-rock four-piece taking influences from bands like The Nationals, Kings of Leon and Snow Patrol. Now based in London they are putting themselves about and look to have a busy year ahead. Fronted by twins Ivan (voice and guitar) and Frazer (guitar), and Ivan’s glorious (if that’s your bag) moustache they led us through their growing crop of self-penned material with great confidence and aplomb for a relatively young band. They have a good series of gigs under their belts already and are lined up for The Great Escape and Soma Fest later this year.
Next up we saw Pelts, greeted with cries of “gie it pelters” from the crowd. Fortunately they’re a local band so they understood this was friendly encouragement, and enjoyed a good rapport with their audience between songs throughout the gig. They dealt comfortably with an early sound problem and then took us on a drifting ride through their brooding soundscape. I recognised elements of ‘80s indie sounds wound into their work and remembered why that was such an exciting decade musically. Not afraid to be experimental, this six-piece have plenty to work with: the beautifully blended voices of Graham McCarey (vocals/guitar) and Natasha Radmehr (vocals), effects / distortion-heavy lead guitar and keyboards all layering up over the bass and drums - sometimes haunting, sometimes building to a dense wall of sound.
The crowd had given a warm reception to the two support bands but the majority were here for Geneva and gave a very warm Glasgow welcome back to what vocalist Andrew Montgomery regards as home territory. The first and last times I saw Geneva were in the last century. They split up after record-company wrangling and delays releasing their second album in 2000 (their first, “Further” came out in 1997). The set started with a laugh as Montgomery told us this third album has taken ages and then they got to work with “What Your Shrink Says”. The distinctive voice that was such a trademark of Geneva has rounded and matured in the intervening years, but is still instantly recognisable, powerful, emotional and Montgomery certainly doesn’t need a suitcase to carry a tune. This is only their third gig since getting back together to see if they still felt the old magic, and some hoarseness in that magical voice brought an apology that some of the high falsetto notes may be getting sung in a lower register.
Next up, Dougie Caskie started “Feel the Joy” on his drums with the big beaters and made sure we were all starting to feel the joy. Steven Dora’s chiming guitar and bottleneck slide gave us an early view of his versatility and the range of sounds he brings to the party. Not to be outdone, Keith Graham started the next song, “Promised Land” (he gets a couple of solo parts later in the gig too – everybody loves a wee bass solo!), and now we were witnessing four accomplished musicians adding the experience of years to songs that were created in their youth, and things were getting a bit magic.
The crowd were bouncing and singing along to the hits and then were treated to a taste of new material in “Are You Where It Ends?”, coming in at #12 in the set, sandwiched between classics “Further” and “No One Speaks”. “No One Speaks” was written 10 years before Twitter was even a little blue egg in it’s parents’ nest, but the lyric “But no one speaks the truth anymore” seems particularly relevant today. Scarily prescient?
The show was rounded off with “Into The Blue” – my old favourite, with a fabulous phased guitar sound – then “Tranquilizer” which had the crowd singing along and left us calling out for more. Geneva duly obliged with two encores (after a 15 song set), including Montgomery getting down with the crowd and singing most of “Vostok” with no amplification.
I’d never dreamed we’d get another Geneva show – the band went their separate ways 20 years ago – and nobody knew if they’d recapture the flame once they decided to give it another spin so what a treat to see everything is still very much in working order. I hope they feel inspired by these gigs and their collective creative juices flow again. In “Museum Mile” they sang “We are what we remember / How can I forget?” On tonight’s showing, they are even better than I remember, and lots of fans have not forgotten.
Gig Review by Trevor