Monday, 13 December 2010

Manuel Gottsching Live in Glasgow - December 2010

Glasgow, Saturday 11th December 2010: a very special day for Scottish fans of Manuel Gottsching. Although Manuel was signed to the London-based Virgin Records in the late 1970s this will be the first time he has ever played live in Scotland and the first time he has played in Britain for over 10 years. His last UK appearance was in London, during Julian Cope's Cornucopea Festival in early 2000.
Several months ago Alasdair Stuart and Yon Dunnett, two friends who run a night by the name of Men and Machines invited Manuel Gottsching to visit Glasgow for a show at the Stereo cafe bar and music venue on Renfield Lane. They were both utterly stunned, not to mention delighted when he agreed.
In the days running up to the show the prospects aren't looking favourable for anybody wishing to travel to Glasgow. In the middle of a cold snap drivers in Scotland are stranded in their cars overnight, unable to travel further, 850 schools close and at one stage 3000 homes are left without electricity as temperatures plummet to as low as -20 degrees celsius. Thankfully 48 hours before the concert temperatures start to rise and a thaw begins. This is particularly fortuitous when one considers that another spell of severe weather with possible snow has been forecast on the run up to Christmas.
As I walk towards the venue at around 6:30pm I hear a muffled Sunrain, one of my favourite Manuel Gottsching tracks out on Renfield Lane. This is either playing in the bar as a prelude to the show or forms part of the soundcheck and I'm not sure which. I enter the bar and can't hear the music playing through a stereo. This is a good sign, as it suggests that Sunrain, which wasn't played at the Paris show in June is in the setlist for tonight. Down in the basement, the concert venue, Manuel is indeed working his way through a breathtaking rendition of the classic cut. The soundcheck tonight turns out to be awesome. Gottsching plays sizeable chunks of many of the planned selections but takes a few unusual and exciting risks along the way, with some daring passages of guitar work.

Just over two hours after the soundcheck concludes Manuel Gottsching takes to the stage, the opener a reworked Sunrain. At around 15 minutes in length this is a real musical exercise in slowly building to a euphoric peak. The audience covers a wide age range and glancing around during the early moments of the set I see more than a few slack jaws, as the penny drops and some of the young fans of contemporary techno/trance/electronica realise that the roots of their beloved music started here.
Midnight on Mars is delivered with a veritable flood of melodic guitar work. It is truly a privilege to be able to see this sublime classic performed in a version every bit as exciting as that on the Blackouts album.
Trunky Groove places the set back on a techno flavoured trajectory and correctly suggests that in contrast to the guitar oriented Paris concert in June, tonight's performance will be more of a club affair. This is the most colourful, trancey rendition of one of Manuel's newest compositions that I have heard so far.
By this stage the audience, large swathes of whom clearly belong to clubland, are dancing and a reworked Shuttle Cock, with its trance-inducing, fast patterns of sound moves the movers up a gear. Gottsching's Inventions for Electric Guitar-esque lead work is as fine as ever but for this writer the biggest treat comes at the tail end of the track with some of the best rhythm guitar work I have ever heard the man play.

Introducing the classic Deep Distance, Manuel gently explains: "I did a remix." The crowd cheer and chuckle with affection. Less bass heavy than the Paris performance this reading really allows the detail of this new version to shine through and one of my favourite parts of the whole evening comes when Gottsching plays a wonderful 1976 vintage keyboard solo amidst the more modern aspects of a redux take.
Whilst the Parisian audience could have been attending a classical concert, offering polite appreciation and ultimately a standing ovation, Glaswegian audiences are known for giving rapturous receptions. The trend is not balked on this occasion and after a stunning performance Manuel is clearly touched by an equally stunning response, the crowd roaring and whistling with approval. A warmly delivered Zerfluss, the last section from the lengthy Die Mulde provides the audience with the pleasing conclusion they deserve. There has been something quietly moving about the symbiotic exchange between artist and audience tonight.