PEACH PIT TAKE ON GLASGOW
Full of charm and star power, the indie favourites take the QMU by storm.
I’m a bit worried about Neil Smith. If he carries on like this, he could do himself some serious damage. The singer’s vertebrae clung together desperately as he wrenched his head violently from side to side at Glasgow’s QMU on Wednesday night. He and the rest of Peach Pit made one hell of an entrance, capped off by Christopher Vanderkooy as he dazzled on the lower neck of his eighteen-string guitar. It might have been perfect had the spotlight not been directed to the wrong part of the stage, leaving the Vanderkooy to dazzle in darkness.
The singer and lead guitarist remained the main focal points of the spectacle throughout the show. Smith sang with a gorgeous tone and absolute concentration, not allowing himself a single pause for an extra breath. After each line, he broke his focus and returned to his antics. He took every opportunity to have banter with the crowd, jumped off the stage to run around the area below, and rammed his head into Vanderkooy’s back to keep him on his toes. He switched his charismatic energy on and off at will.
Vanderkooy kept his on all evening, playing guitar parts full of interest and detail with precision and passionate expression until the end. Even when playing lap steel for a gentle number, he found a way to entertain in climbing on top of an amp stack and letting his feet swing freely over the side. The lap steel and the eighteen-string guitars are just a small sample of the instruments he commanded as he gave new charm to every number with his remarkable versatility.
While he threatened to drown out Smith’s vocals at times, the rhythm section gave a masterclass in tasteful accompaniment that was delicately ornamented with moments of subtle brilliance such as Peter Wilton’s glissando bass lines and the compelling, unpredictable shifts in emphasis in Mikey Pascuzzi’s drum parts. As for the newest member of their live ensemble, who Smith described as ‘our buddy Dougie’, he jumped from background to foreground with total ease. His performance on the violin was particularly impressive; it combined delicate passages of harmonic supplement with striking renditions of riffs and solos.
Some performers were more extroverted than others, but you would hardly notice with all the tricks they used to get everyone involved in the action. Pascuzzi instantly earned the adoration of the crowd when he whipped out a harmonica and gave a charmingly unimpressive solo. Vanderkooy frequently darted across the stage to spar with the other instrumentalists, who took turns chugging from a bottle of Buckfast - the fastest way to the Glaswegian’s heart.
Of all Peach Pit’s performance devices, the most effective were to be found in the structure of the show. When they played ‘Private Presley’, they created such an intense atmosphere amidst the strobe lights and the cymbal crashes that it was difficult to imagine how they could surpass it. As the final chord rang out, Peach Pit launched into material from their new album From 2 to 3 that they had held back for this moment. The sudden release of musical tension combined with of the end of anticipation for new tunes like ‘Vickie’ and ‘Up Granville’ had everyone on the QMU floor bouncing.
But, as they explained in the lyrics of ‘Techno Show’, lying back and lighting up is much more their scene than dancing the night away. Having energized the crowd, they began to smoothly dial down the intensity, eventually concluding with ‘Tommy’s Party’ and sending their fans home in a state of casual serenity.
Just as the opening guitar solo was denied its spotlight, Peach Pit’s wonderfully crafted show didn’t quite get the presentation it deserved. At a few important moments, the sound from Smith’s microphone and guitar went completely dead. Perhaps frustrated by these technical difficulties, Smith picked up the wrong guitar for a couple of songs and mistakenly thanked the city of Dublin for its support.
These signs of frustration didn’t show until the very end, though. When the sound went dead, Smith continued to put everything he had into his singing. His voice may have been inaudible, but his persistence inspired the crowd to join in so that the vocal parts could still be heard. as he led the crowd in an acoustic performance. The rest of the band played on with as much good humour as ever. Even when Smith mixed up his instruments later on, they kept the show going with playful improvisation until Smith was ready to jump back in.
For Peach Pit, taking it easy is not just part of an aesthetic. Whatever the circumstances, they don’t let things get them down. Just as Vanderkooy doesn’t let poor spotlight operation affect his solos. Just as Smith doesn’t let himself get too concerned about the condition of his spine.