PHIL AND DAVE ALVIN & THE GUILTY ONES, The Art School, Glasgow on Wednesday 28 October 2014.
Written by Mike Ritchie. Picture – Mike Ritchie
Focused and wary, the student crossed the road outside Glasgow School of Art carrying a delicate, glass-baubled creation. Seconds later he reached the safety of the new Art School reception area, opposite the charred exterior of the world famous Rennie Mackintosh building. I felt like applauding, but resisted.
It was hard to stop clapping for the next 90 minutes, though, thanks to a blistering blast from Phil and Dave Alvin and their vibrant band, The Guilty Ones – what an utterly glorious, bluesy bash they served up, confirming that the brotherly reunion was both well judged and inspired. The Blasters, some of them at least, were back in town and bang on form.
This proved be an unrestrained, joyful lesson in how to interpret and play the blues, how to lob in muscled, contemporary material and blow away the years with rugged guitar breaks, chunky harmonica and even a rocking drum solo.
Leather-jacketed, Phil and Dave, naturally, took centre stage: Phil somewhat shy, but his wee brother made up for that. He was in gleeful, playful form, warm and funny and mean as a hungry ferret when he honked out the many solo guitar breaks in an overall tremendous set.
All By Myself, Feel So Good and Key To The Highway from Common Ground: The Songs of Big Bill Broonzy, their current album, shook up and rocked the Alvin boys’ childhood memories, as these are the tunes they grew up with. They set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Phil’s powerful vocals and harmonica captured the mood and Dave snuck in with licks and splurges of fire.
They were having fun and so were we. The knockabout, What’s Up With Your Brother? – from Dave’s 2011 release, Eleven Eleven – was never better. A rumbustious and intense, Johnny Ace Is Dead from the same album was another stormer. From Blue Boulevard released 20 years earlier, the environmental feel of Dry River lost none of its poignancy and once again Dave was in full-on guitar slinger mode.
The Guilty Ones – Chris Miller on guitar, Lisa Pankratz on drums and Brad Fordham on bass – fortified this gritty, dynamic performance, ensuring The Alvins’ reunion was a marvellous get-together that we were reluctant to leave behind.