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Glasvegas

Paradise Rock Club

March 31, 2009

Glasvegas, Scotland’s hottest rock group, is on their first U.S. tour to promote their eponymous debut album. After visits to David Letterman and SXSW, they finally arrived at Boston’s venerable Paradise Rock Club on Tuesday night. Joining them in the sold out show was Ida Maria, a promising and kinetic Swedish singer.

Ida Maria, along with her band, kicked things off with a bang with songs from her impressive debut album Fortress Round My Heart. As she tragically mused about God (“Stella”) and unleashed her sexual presence (“I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked”) in a powerful, cracked voice reminiscent of Janis Joplin, Ida Maria commanded the stage like a seasoned veteran. Her band, especially bassist Johannes Lindberg, matched her howls with virtuosic thrashing and banging, creating a fun first act. With their talent and ferocity, the band quickly won over the crowd and was rewarded with a resounding ovation as they ended with “Oh My God,” one of Pitchfork Media’s top 100 singles of 2009.

After a long intermission that left the audience buzzing and restless, Glasvegas took the stage. Completely dressed in black and painted blue by the lighting, they could easily be mistaken for a more somber group. However, as they launched into their hit single “Geraldine” in a bath of strobes and colored lights, Glasvegas revealed that they are much more engaging and energetic than suggested by their discography.

The band efficiently worked its way through almost every song from the debut album and even a couple from their Christmas-themed EP A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like a Kiss), including the not-so-festive “F*** You, It’s Over.” I realized quickly that I underestimated the strength of their album, as all the songs translated well live. “It’s My Own Cheating Heart that Makes Me Cry” began slowly but ended in a cathartic flourish. Leader singer James Allan gently crooned through the moodier songs like “S.A.D. Light” and the fantastic “Flowers and Football Tops,” about a murdered youth in Glasgow, and roared in the anthemic “Go Square Go.”

There’s a lot to like about Glasvegas live: Allan’s thick Scottish accent and fondness for kissing females in the first row, the fact that drummer Caroline McKay stands, bassist Paul Donoghue’s cheesy footwork, and lead guitarist Rab Allan’s pulsating sounds. Their fresh sound is a combination of the introspectiveness of Oasis with the distorted guitars of the Jesus & Mary Train and a touch of rockabilly.

As Glasvegas finished their night with “Daddy’s Gone,” the song that made them an internet phenomenon and set off a bidding war with the major labels, I couldn’t help wondering when they will tour this side of the Atlantic again. What makes Glasvegas so good is that they manage to be mainstream and calculating without seeming manufactured, a band with arena-rock aspirations but still cool enough to be appreciated as indie rockers. If they continue to flourish, their next Boston show will surely be in a much larger venue than Paradise.