GLASSJAW. Forum, London. 30.03.11
A Glassjaw gig isn’t the event it once was. Sure, it’s been almost four years since the band played a headline show on UK soil and there are still plenty of people who have yet to see them live and in the flesh but as they amble on stage tonight, looking just a little bored, they feel less like cult icons and more like dudes finally deciding to get their shit in gear and maybe play a show or two.
They’re still the dudes behind some solid gold life-changing tunes of course. And when they sink their collective teeth into the modern classics of their back catalogue, this show soars. ‘Mu Empire’ explodes, the band locked into a groove while frontman Daryl Palumbo hiccups and hollers new embellishments over the noise like this is his jazz, ‘Ape Dos Mil’ is faster and more fiery than on record but is somehow just as emotional, and ‘Tip Your Bartender’ is massive, the crowd singing so loud that you’d swear there were ten times as many people here. Rather than an hour of such power though, these moments are fleeting.
It doesn’t help that the musicians are reduced to background players, swept to the back of the stage so Palumbo can slink about and shake his shirt and shiver like an empty Halloween costume. This is definitely his show. Despite his exertions, energy is an issue too. And of course every single song suffers for the lack of a second guitarist. Really though, the running order is off. Where that last headline show felt like a real release, a cathartic mix of old and new from a band coming back to their best, tonight is weighed down by the amount of new material.
They’re good, you probably know that already, but Glassjaw’s new songs are not built to blow the roof off a place. So while ‘Siberian Kiss’ is blistering, a violent volley that actually benefits from the band’s new looser, pared down approach, ‘Jesus Glue’ sucks some of the life out of proceedings, and midway through ‘All Good Junkies Go to Heaven’ the heat in the room might have gone off the boil. And there’s no ‘Cosmopolitan Bloodloss’ or ‘Pretty Lush’ to bring it back, only an encore of the new ‘Coloring Book’ EP (handed out for free at the end of the show). Hell, they only play six songs that you can actually buy from a shop all night.
This sounds like a slate but it isn’t, really it’s not. Parts of tonight were glorious- the simple but effective lighting, the way bassist Manuel Carrero and drummer Durijah Lang worked together, a particularly gritty version of ‘Convectuoso’- it’s just that other parts certainly were not. Glassjaw weren’t bad then, they just weren’t the Glassjaw they used to be.