Imagine the rock star: gleaming in sweat, yet irresistibly sexy and rebellious, vainly involved in their music, but sonically connected to their screaming fans. Calling someone a rock star is a generalization, yet connotes the aura of a certain swagger and musical grace or lack there of. Glasvegas on their first US tour have been opening their performances in the US with female bands like Von Iva or Ida Maria—issuing a comparison of female and male rock bands. On this Thursday night at the Great American Music Hall (GAMH) Von Iva and Glasvegas both performed like rock stars, each unfazed by their lacking superstar status, grabbing the crowd with sex appeal, attitude and good old rock n’ roll.
Von Iva, a three piece female band, is captivatingly brash and undoubtedly sexy. The band is led by vocalist Jillian Iva, whose voice is as penetratingly clear as it is melodically bluesy and strong. She is backed by equal talent with keyboardist Lay Lay and drummer Bex. The hipster friendly trio churn out 80s retro punk-fused rock, driven by hard hitting drum beats, that are melodically soothed by the keyboard and Jillian’s voice.
As I walked into the GAMH Jillian says, “Fuck this,” and steps down into the crowd wearing a black skin tight dress, as she looked for a dance partner. As she returned to the stage, thick with sarcastic arrogance she says, “Was it good for you?” and takes a sip of her whiskey shot. Jillian exudes confidence, a key characteristic of a star, as she struts across the stage and sits on top of the large side speaker, flirtatiously crosses her legs, and belts into the microphone.
Jillian garners most of the attention, but Bex and Lay Lay are by no means upstaged. As Bex head bangs her platinum blond hair to the thrashing rhythm of her pounding sticks, Lay Lay coyly inserts guitar riffs on the keyboard, providing a softer balance to the in your face style of the group. Bex was so absorbed in slamming her drums it seems she thought she was parading down the street in her own marching band. Yet, Von Iva sounds like a singer with a band, rather than a band with a singer. While Lay Lay and Bex are talented musicians, the musical composition seems bare without a guitar or bass.
Wasting no time, Glasvegas began their set with their hit, “Geraldine.” With piercing chords and a strong backbone rhythm, vocalist James Allan sung with long notes aching for his Geraldine. Like punk rock heart throbs, the whole band is dressed in black, with Allan wearing a black leather jacket and oh so popular black Ray Bans. In my opinion, only stars have a cool pass to wear sunglasses in doors.
The band has been lauded as one of the most promising rock bands in 2008 by NME, yet tonight Glasvegas seems like a band with a singer. Allan sounds great on the band’s self-titled debut CD, but tonight, while his vocals melody resonate, his thick accent and muffled projection makes his lyrics incoherent. Where Allan is lacking, guitarist Rab Allan and bassist Paul Donoghue pick up the slack as they slash at the strings, combing out tantalizing riffs over thick bass lines, while being strongly rooted in Caroline McKay’s consistent drumming.
Unfazed by the acoustics, the crowd sung along while bobbing their heads to the groove. With the beginning of “It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry,” the strobe lights flashed on the bands’ faces, adding an intensity of light to sounds, making their performance also a visual spectacle. At this point the audience’s excitement infectiously resonated through the venue as Allan stopped between songs to say “You guys are fucking gorgeous,”–and then handed a lucky fan his beer.
Rock stars make you forget the drudgery of daily life, and bring you into the overly gaudy, ruckus life of a star. Their shows entrance listeners into dancing, chanting lyrics, and forgetting their anxieties. With intense drumming, and Jillian’s seductive and contagious presence, Von Iva made listeners forget they were openers, playing like headliners. Following in equal fashion, Glasvegas continued to push the energy with pumping rhythms accompanied by catchy guitar riffs. From their first song, there was no looking back, and just accepting the “Go Square Go,” when Allan shouted “Here we, here we / Here we fuckin’ go!”—and here we fucking go!