I almost didn’t go to the Edinburgh gig. I had bought a ticket in the heat of the moment when they were released, but this was during a time when various phases of the tour were being released at different times, and I could hardly keep track and ended up buying tickets for every gig I thought I might be able to go to, thinking I would work it all out later. Having done the Stag & Dagger, gone to Manchester, a spontaneous decision to go to Berlin, then the King Tuts gig coming up, I figured that was more than enough We Are Scientists for one year. Plus, the Edinburgh gig was, well, in Edinburgh (I may be an east-coaster born and raised but I have lived in Glasgow long enough to have adopted the sense of rivalry/superiority, especially in terms of live music). And it was a Monday night, which would mean arranging things with the girls and it all just seemed like too much hassle.
I also feared that this would be something of a let-down after the previous gigs. They had all been special in some way.
- Stag & Dagger – first time seeing the band in ages and first time hearing songs from Helter Seltzer
- Manchester – my birthday, first proper headline gig of the new album tour
- King Tuts – well that was King Tuts, what else can I say, plus added DJ set after-party
- Berlin – finally I got to see a We Are Scientists show with my dear friend Kerstin
So all of these gigs had something unique about them. I was concerned Edinburgh would be an anti-climax.
However, in Berlin I got speaking to Keith and Chris (for clarity and brevity Keith Murray will be referred to as Keith, Keith Carne will be Carne). When I expressed my reservations, they wouldn’t hear anything about me not going to this one, so they persuaded me to make the journey to Edinburgh for my final WAS gig of the year.
So, children duly taken care of, public transport options ruled out, hotels found to be prohibitively expensive, I set off in my car after work. One of Keith’s arguments had been “hey, Edinburgh is only half an hour from Glasgow!” well, Murray, it’s an hour at best and I’m coming from half an hour the other side, plus rush hour traffic, endless roadworks and getting slightly lost in the centre of Edinburgh meant it took 2 and a half hours(!). And I still had to walk up the Royal Mile to the venue. This had better be worth it…
Edinburgh is undoubtedly pretty, and thankfully on a Monday evening it is quiet, so I legged it up the Mile, grabbing a Subway sandwich on the way to fuel the evening. As I finished my “dinner” outside the Liquid Rooms I saw a tweet that the set times were going to be early, in fact the first of two support bands were due to be on.
When I was there for Mystery Jets a few weeks ago, I had a chance to scope out the venue, and I had planned to take up a space on the balcony again. I didn’t feel much like being down the front this time, still experiencing a sense that this might not be a great night for me, as WAS gigs go. But on arrival I found that the balcony was closed that night. Oh well, down the front it was. I wanted to make sure I was able to see and wasn’t in the mood to be around hangers-back who would spoil things by talking during songs or taking selfies, or getting pushed out of the way as folk made off for the bar / toilet etc.
By the time I had visited the bathroom and checked my coat, the first support band were on their penultimate song. I didn’t catch their name, but they were a local Edinburgh band and were ok from what I heard.
They weren’t kidding about the early set times, the 2nd support, Beverly, came on at about 7.30pm. I had listened to them a bit earlier in the week to get a feel for them, having heard good reviews from folk who had seen them earlier in the tour. On record (well, let’s be honest, on Spotify) they seemed like a fairly generic-sounding 90s grunge type band. They sounded better live, with more variation in sound and texture than was apparent on record and harmonies that reminded me of the Cranberries (this is a compliment – I went through a huge Cranberries phase once upon a time).
Another tight turnaround and it was WAS time. I was getting more into the mood now, realising this was the last time I was going to see them for a while, so I had better buck up and make the most of it. They opened with The Scene is Dead again, which I think works really well as an opener, and there was a nice energy from the outset. The venue had filled up, the crowd was warming up and there were clearly some super-fans in the mix.
Although I have seen them an embarrassing number of times this year, the dates have been well enough spaced out for me to see an evolution in the setlist and approach, particularly to the new album songs. Kerstin and I were delighted to be treated to Headlights in Berlin (I may have told Keith just how much we both love that song when I spoke to him at the Tut’s after-party) and we rewarded its inclusion in the set there by dancing along, complete with cheesy actions. I’m glad it has now formed part of the regular set, although without my partner in crime I refrained from the actions this time round.
I had heard on the grapevine that We Need A Word (“Flexor”, wtf?) had been making appearances elsewhere in the tour so I was glad we got to hear it in Edinburgh. I told Keith after the gig that it was my least favourite song on the album, but that Kerstin had been trying to persuade me of its merits. I had to admit it has some good elements (the drums, the harmonies) but seeing it live, as tends to happen, brought out new aspects of it for me, particularly seeing Keith’s on-stage interpretation of it. It was a good reminder that a setlist full of your favourite songs isn’t always a good thing. I had a flashback to a London gig on the Barbara tour where they played Foreign Kicks. My initial reaction was “ughh” but, by the end, images and meanings had been evoked and I found myself transported somewhere unexpected. I like being challenged and having my mind changed about a song.
I love it when WAS put a new spin on an old(ish) song. This time, Make it Easy sounded really different. The verses were gentler, more tender, it had a kind of lean-in-and-take-notice effect, which I liked. We got In Your Head, which was missing from Berlin and which is one of my favourites on the new album. Also missing from Berlin had been Sprinkles, another favourite of mine. Although during Sprinkles in King Tuts I had a “moment”, so wasn’t sure how I would feel about hearing it again. The second it started, though, I found myself getting emotional. I don’t think I have ever cried at a We Are Scientists gig, but I came damn near close last night. It’s a good job Keith ruled out ever playing Don’t Blow It because I would be at risk of a meltdown. As much as I love Helter Seltzer, I’ve spoken before about my love of the imagery in the lyrics of TV en Francais and that album will always hold particular meaning for me personally.
The encore ended in now familiar fashion with Too Late. This time, however, we were treated to the extended version, complete with mega-guitar solo from Keith (yaasss!), drum solo from Carne (double yaasss!), although sadly no bass solo for Chris. It was a pretty spectacular way to close the show and felt like a fitting way for me to end my WAS-heavy year.
After I collected my coat and checked out the merch stall I was contemplating my next move when the security guys started ushering us out. There were lots of people waiting at the stall or just getting coats etc organised, but they were moving us upstairs, quickly. Once outside and layered up to cope with the autumnal Edinburgh night, I checked messages from folk wondering how the gig had gone, then started thinking about whether I should wait around or not. They guys are usually good at coming and saying hi, but you never know, especially in a city where they have friends and I knew they would here. I got speaking to 2 other people waiting, we chatted a bit about times we’d seen the band before and the setlist. Beverly, the support, came out and packed up all their stuff into their tiny van. Then Ian, WAS tour manager, came out and he told us the guys would be out soon. Not long after, they come out, laden with boxes and cases. They said a quick hello as they packed their van, then we all had a proper chat afterwards. The other 2 were getting photos, stuff signed etc, but Carne and I just picked up conversations we had held previously. That’s the nice thing about seeing them so often in a short space of time, there’s a comfortable continuity in resuming where we left off.
One of the nice things about this blog is that people sometimes get in touch, and lately quite a few fans of the band have read my previous posts and have sent me messages, eager to share their enthusiasm and relating their own experiences. Some have told me quite touching, personal stories about how much the band means to them. I took the chance to let Keith know this (following on from telling him that people were loving Headlights and me expressing my delight at them including it in the set again). People are often too shy to say this directly to him/the band, but I wanted him to know it (I didn’t pass on any details, just the sentiments). And no-one should be shy about approaching Keith, he is the sweetest, funniest, most charming guy and genuinely cares about his fans and wants to connect with people and know they are having a good time and relating to his music, in whatever way is meaningful for them.
Anyway, after a while Ian was herding them all into the van so it was time for final hugs and goodbyes. I walked back down through a beautifully deserted Edinburgh Old Town, reflecting that it had in no way been an anti-climax, it had been a thoroughly decent gig, with some great time with the guys afterwards, and some more good memories to add to my collection from this year. I was glad that I had decided/been persuaded to go, even during the 90 minute drive home (seriously, Edinburgh is such a pain in the arse to get to/from) I was glad of the time to process and let my thoughts coalesce.