It’s amazing what a Fleetwood Mac cover can do for a show.
Witnessing the seemingly all conquering Haim sisters belt out two of the year’s best songs (“Falling” and “The Wire”) in front of a packed O2 ABC in Glasgow’s bustling city centre only to be met with a mere tepid response evoked an odd feeling within me of discontent towards my fellow audience members. Probably tired from their long day of working and studying, the majority of the crowd didn’t seem to react as readily to these hearty slices of exhilarating, euphoric, full-blooded, sun-roof-down Americana as I did.
I consider it something of a master stroke that a band who most hark back to the Buckingham and Nicks fronted days of the Mac should decide to pull out the crunchy blues rhythm of “Oh Well” – from way, way back when Peter Green was at the helm – to swerve and swell the crowd. They’ve been doing it for a while – they have a work horse touring schedule and the cover has been a huge hit amongst festival audiences, at least every British one worth mentioning – but this was the first time they showcased it after a solid debut album, an outpouring of acclaim and turning up in a city that makes musical heroes. It went down a treat in a clearly beloved city to the band, and the atmosphere rose in temperature for every following track.
The sisters have a truly old fashioned and feel good onstage chemistry – a familial camaraderie that is missing from other bands of relations around in the modern music scene. They play fluidly and wondrously together, mixing intricate instrumentation with soaring harmonies, and they do stage banter better than any band I’ve seen in recent memory. In fact, that is a particular art that appears wanting in the personality of most rock outfits at the moment. They visibly love the crowd reaction (and there is a lot of love for them in this crowd), and they respond to it spontaneously. Of course, you have to when missiles consisting of a cuddly Nessie, two bras and a packet of Marks and Spencers’ Percy Pigs fly at you (other good supermarkets are available, and other jellied farm animals, probably).
They were technically flawless, and post-“Oh Well” managed to surge up the same energy that has become apparent as a staple in their live set up. They played their entire debut (sans the title track), a mix of poppy balladry (“Running If You Call My Name”) and grungy R’n’B (“My Song 5”). Despite loving their album, it was only until this performance that I recognised the depth of their song writing talent. They swayed from arms aloft sing-a-longs to dirty rock and roll riffs, and proved their ability to transcribe that to a live setting without losing any of its punch, humour or spirit.
As mentioned, the chat was flowing between stage and crowd, though much of the talking was done by Alana and Este. At one point Alana became so hysterical with laughter that she charmingly screwed up her vocals when Este caught a projectile bra and proceeded to clasp it round her head. It was clear that they were enjoying themselves still, despite a hectic and rammed touring schedule. Danielle remained conspicuously mute until returning for the encore where she was physically fraught and emotional at returning to a venue that she had previously played with Julian Casablancas. This is the second time in recent memory for me that I’ve witness the front person of a globally popular band give a believable, and ultimately honest, insight into their love of playing in Glasgow, once again cementing the theory that Glasgow is a cultural, musical and welcoming city that great bands will continue to return to. That makes me feel proud.
The Haim gig at Glasgow’s ABC was rousing, enjoyable and fun – put simply, a plain, old-fashioned rock and roll show put on by three sisters who clearly love playing together. At least, it was this simple until the closing segment. A rollicking rendition of “Let Me Go” seemed to be closing the night when, as a kind of post-gig epilogue, the keyboardist withdrew, the drummer remained stationary, the Californian trio set aside their guitars, and proceeded to engage in a sort of percussionist’s wet dream, a beat laden foursome of rhythm. This was a truly unique ending to the show. It took me by surprise – even if this is a regular occurrence at Haim concerts, it evaded my attention, and I am thankful that it did because I watched in an awed state. They may have grabbed the attention with their voices and guitars but it was their stick work, drumming proficiency and a distinctive end that will remain in my thoughts.