Live Report: Young Fathers – Barrowlands, Glasgow

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Glasgow Barrowlands is the most iconic music venue in the city, internationally feted, and with its wooden sprung floors, positively encourages dancing and general riotousness. When you play this venue in the city, you know that you’ve arrived. When you’re playing two sold out shows in a row, as Young Fathers did there this week, you’re top of the heap, and, despite the rivalry that exists between the two cities, Glasgow gave the Edinburgh-based band, now a decade into their career, a rapturous welcome.

The band, expanded from their core members G. Hastings, Alloysius Massaquoi and Kayius Bankole with a drummer playing a wildly altered kit, two (backing would be an understatement) singers, Amber Joy and Kim Mandindo, respond with enough energy to power a besieged city, though Hastings at one point taunts the crowd for not raucously enough joining in with some call and response with, “I thought this was the Barras?”

The set begins deceptively subtly with ‘Shoot Me Down’ from new album ‘Heavy Heavy’, with its threatening intro resolving into euphoric chants, before looping back to their hip-hop roots with ‘Queen Is Dead’, the group whooping and hollering over its relentless buzzsaw drone. Next up is their breakthrough hit ‘Get Up’, with its darkly ironic invitation to “Come here and do the right thing / Come and have a party,” against one of the most magnificently detuned noises in modern music. 

An impassioned ‘Wow’ brings in some discordance building to its cry for “Giving me what I need” in a bizarre mutation of doowop, and just when you think they can’t go any higher, they immediately slam into ‘Old Rock n’ Roll’, with its deconstructed African polyrythmic funk rhythms parodying cliched notions of race, setting the crowd, myself included, dancing.

It doesn’t let up – that Young Fathers are the greatest live band in Scotland at the moment is hardly a secret. I think they’re the greatest Scottish live band I’ve ever seen, and this trawl through their entire career also reminds one of the sheer quality and complexity of the music they’ve produced over the last decade. There isn’t one duff tune or piece of filler ever, as everything they do and touch feels urgent, essential, that there’s a reason for it to exist in the world, and it’s delivered with utter conviction. 

When they preface one of their most loved songs ‘Shame’, with a dedication to “those who choose bombs and guns over peace”, and declare “Ceasefire Now, Free Palestine”, and 1900 people go utterly nuts, it’s the most visceral demonstration of catharsis in action I’ve ever witnessed. 

And normally, if a band ever left the Barrowlands stage without playing an encore, there’d be hell to pay. In this case, the audience fully agreed we’d been paid in full. 

Words: Brian Beadie