Arab Strap: Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow

arabstrap

This review originally featured in The Skinny.

In the decade since Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton amicably, but devastatingly, called time on Arab Strap, both have navigated successful projects on their own. But the announcement of reunion gigs to mark their previous band’s anniversary was a thrilling development for fans of the pair’s peerless tales of meaningless sex and drug-wasted weekends. By Moffat’s own admission, tonight marks The Big One – the first night of two at Glasgow’s iconic Barrowland Ballroom.

The death of the mixing desk cuts short Bossy Love‘s support set and delays the main event. With panic over (thanks to the arrival of a replacement, the 1982 World Cup song We Have a Dream, and the rain-soaked pipes and sad strings of Loch Leven’s intro), Moffat, Middleton and co. emerge to a crowd that has well and truly waited for this moment.

Opener Stink is Moffat’s stark poetic realism at its finest, with the assembled band of impressive musicians treating the songs as they deserve. Few groups do light and shade like Arab Strap, and tonight sees a cross-section of gems from across their catalogue. The Clearing and New Birds are incredible, as are the stripped-back betrayal of Piglet, the bleak regret of Blood, the tubthumping bitterness and intensity of Fucking Little Bastards and the beefier pop of There is No Ending.

Predictably, The Shy Retirer and The First Big Weekend cause a stir, the latter’s lyrics updated to reflect Moffat’s maturity, but the more sedate Packs of Three and Here We Go are equally appreciated. Acoustic audience request Hello Daylight is beautiful, as is final bonus encore Serenade, closing a night that many wish wouldn’t end.

If this is their final flirtation, it is a bittersweet triumph. The break has only served to enhance the pair’s strengths, and the songs still reach places other artists can’t, or won’t. Arab Strap were never just of their time, but truly in a league of their own, and tonight’s reunion is a glorious reminder of just how vital they will always be.

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