Live review: Woodenbox, Neil McSweeney, The Horn Dog Brass Band at Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry, 23/5/13


Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry is the scene for the return of Woodenbox and the launch of their new album, End Game.

Having made a name for themselves playing an infectious brand of big band folk rock the Opry is filled with a healthy mix of diehard fans, music lovers and a selection of Grand Ole regulars.

The gig celebrates the development of last year’s The Vanishing Act EP into a full album, their first since releasing 2010’s Home and the Wild Hunt, while still under the name Woodenbox with a Fistful of Fivers.

First up is The Horndog Brass Band, who feature Woodenbox’s Phil Caldwell on trumpet, the band set up in the middle of the dance floor and with their catchy swing, marching snares and dancing horns bring a bit of New Orleans to the Texan style of the Opry, topping everything off with a well judged cover of Fatboy Slim’s ‘Praise You’.

Neil McSweeney, having started playing just him and his guitar, these days brings his band together with a shifting array of instruments true to his country/blues influences.

This provides a much bigger platform for his storytelling style with the accompaniment of vocal harmonies, double, bass, slide guitar and the saw and bow.

When Woodenbox to take to the stage, donned in cowboy shirts and Stetsons, they launch into a full set of songs old and new revelling in their mariachi styling.

They play an eclectic style of Americana peppered with ska and brass band boogie

New track, ‘Courage’ takes a pop slant on melancholy rockabilly in a fusion of mainstream and country rock n roll and the live delivery brings with it much more passion and bravado than the record suggests as the lilting chorus wins over the crowd.

Halfway through the set, reinforcements come in the form of the Horndog Brass band just in time for a highlight of the launch, ‘Everyone has a Price’ a brash celebration of cynicism bringing elements of Bruce Springsteen and Badly Drawn Boy together to create a great party atmosphere.

End Game as an album seems perfectly at home within the set, the strutting sounds of ‘Twisted Mile’ sitting comfortably next to ‘Royal Mile’, while the accessibility of songs like ‘Courage’ and ‘Beautiful Terrible’ hint at a band that are trying to push through to the next level.

In a world where the mediocre meanderings of Mumford and Sons are storming the charts it would be nice to think that a band with the wit and sense of fun that Woodenbox possess could have a real shot.

The gig is full of entertainment and with a great sense of spectacle and the band romp through their encore to chants of ‘Mon the Box’ from the audience setting them up perfectly for the summer festival season.

Words: Steven Penman


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