Review: The Temperance Movement – Barrowland , Glasgow

I think that it’s fair to assume that before tonight a great deal of the crowd were unfamiliar with opening act The Sheepdogs. I certainly was. Upon checking their social media pages, I stumbled across the video of what looks like bassist Ryan Gullen swinging one handed from a massive light fitting whilst swigging from a bottle. He then falls off, and goes arse over tit, and I thought…”Yep they’ll do for me “. Further research turns up some interesting facts, like the band were the first unsigned band to feature on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. They’ve won awards at the Juno’s (Canada’s answer to The Brits awards, but less shit) and they are also a gold and platinum record selling act.

With a lush, golden sound, that could have come straight out of either the West Coast of America or the Southern states, it’s surprising that they do indeed hail from the frozen lands of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan Canada, where any day now, the residents are attempting to break the Guinness world record for the largest snowball fight.These guys get what winter is all about, so they jumped ship for some time in the UK tropics… like Aberdeen, Glasgow, Newcastle …all the regular balmy hotspots.

Guitarist and vocalist Ewan Currie looks and sounds like a younger version of Country legend Glen Campbell. When he is not leading the band through one of many guitar driven gems, he’s happy to take over the keyboards to allow his brother Shamus his moment in the spotlight… with a trombone solo during ‘Help Us All’. The Sheepdogs play a mix of Americana and Bluesy Rock ‘n’ Roll, which features some incredible vocal harmonies, but the guitar harmonies are simply stunning. Currie handles his fair share of solos, but it’s classic old-school showmanship when Rusty Matyas steps forward to take his solos. He totally wails, raising his Les Paul to the sky, then quietly steps back in line with the others. At times, I got hints of The Allman Brothers Band, Crosby Stills & Nash, Fleetwood Mac, as well as early Thin Lizzy (mainly due to the guitar harmonies). The band received a warm reception from the capacity crowd, which should gain them some new fans when they hopefully return for a headlining tour in the spring.

It’s obvious that The Temperance Movement vocalist, and local boy, Phil Campbell has been counting down the days to this gig like an excited child waiting on Christmas morning to arrive. Posts had been appearing on his facebook page mentioning his upbringing in Glasgow, walking past ‘The Barras’ on his way to work in the morning, playing a battle of the bands at the venue back in the mid 90’s… yep this gig meant something to arguably the finest vocalist these shores have produced since Frankie Miller. There are other venues in Glasgow, but none with the character or the back story of The Barras, so when Campbell took to the stage, his immense pride was written all over his beaming face.

‘Three Bulleits’ opens the new album ‘White Bear’ and also opens the show. It’s a foot stomping, drinking anthem, that has a misleading gentle opening that gives way to a slamming chorus where the band tear loose. Live,  it’s a different beastie and sounds way heavier. Campbell is all over the stage, like a fevered preacher in front of his adoring congregation… this time his congregation being a capacity crowd ready from the off. ‘Oh Lorraine’ (or “that one that sounds like The Stone Roses”) is up next, and it’s the first chance for new guitarist Matt White to take the spotlight. The big guy might seem quite quiet onstage, what with being the newbie and all, but his playing is immense, and at one point during the gig, his whammy bar snapped, due to the heavy duty abuse it was getting. With the exception of Campbell, The Temperance Movement have never been a band to make laps of the stage doing star jumps, choosing instead to let the music be the main attraction.’Midnight Black’ and ‘Be Lucky’ are the first songs to be aired tonight from the self titled debut album, and are welcomed like returning heroes. Two memorable, but entirely different, tracks from a band that exudes quiet confidence.

The entire ‘White Bear’ album gets aired tonight, probably one of the most complete albums that I’ve heard in a long time, and one that pisses on the “difficult second album” myth. The album is well paced, and is best enjoyed in one sitting from start to finish (check it out on vinyl…). Live, the songs bookend favourites from the debut album, ‘Modern Massacre’ and ‘Magnify’ lead into one of the earliest The Temperance Movement gems – ‘Pride’. Campbell has to step in to stop a wee scuffle from escalating, telling the offenders…“Hey,cut that shit out , I’m up here trying to remember my lyrics …just move away from each other yeah?” Security move into the crowd, but it’s all over in a flash. Normal service is resumed. ‘Pride’ is incredible. A song that deserves to be heard on a much larger scale and there is the dilemma that The Temperance Movement fans face every day. We all know that the band should be never be off of prime time radio and treading the boards of the largest venues in the country… but… at the same time, we want to keep them for ourselves. They’re our band, you go away and fall over the latest band that NME or Radio One are hyping… The Vaccines anyone ?.

The band have a great connection with their fans (known collectively as ‘movers’). Seek out footage of their recent HMV instore performances, especially those from Aberdeen and Newcastle, where Campbell is dancing around with fans, or trying to get kids to join in. When you know it’s coming from the heart, it strikes a chord even more as you know it’s genuine and touching. Watching the reaction from the crowd when the band break out ‘Smouldering’, it’s easy to see that the connection works both ways. A tender moment to slow things down, and remind everyone that it doesn’t need to be full on to knock you back on your feet.

‘White Bear’, and ‘Get Yourself Free’, are two of my favourite tracks on the new album. Life-affirming tracks that highlight what such strong songwriters the band have become, and live, they both fill this old ballroom with soaring sounds that had me singing “I don’t mind…Get Yourself Free” for days to come. Songs that burrow into your sub-conscience, and stay there forever. When ‘Only Friend’ and ‘Take It Back’ come blasting out of the PA, the place erupts into a frenzy of bad dancing and mass “Whoah Oh Oh Oh” sing-alongs. Two bangers that get the blood pumping and the head bobbing… but wait a minute aren’t the bangers kept for the encore?

With the fastest and heaviest shells already expelled from the bands arsenal, it was left to ‘I Hope I’m Not Losing My Mind’, ‘A Pleasant Peace I Feel’, and ‘Lovers & Fighters’ to round off the evening. A trio of powerful, restrained songs, that showcase how emotive a performer Phil Campbell is. A song doesn’t need to be 100mph to grab your attention, and this was fifteen minutes or so that capped a perfect performance.

What now for The Temperance Movement though? It’s great credit to all involved with the band that they have managed to keep a lid on the fervour surrounding them, and continued with the building-things-up-gradually approach that so many other acts/management/labels would do well to follow. After some European dates in February, the guys head over to Canada for an extensive tour, opening for Monster Truck. Festivals in the Summer, maybe ? A Winter tour, in larger venues?… taking over one territory at a time? I can dig that.

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Review Dave Stott

Images Ritchie Birnie

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