13th May, 2004

Beta Band Live: Better Than Ever

Seems views are split on the new Beta Band album, Heroes To Zeroes. “It’s not The Three E.P’s!”, they wail. No, it’s not - The Three E.P’s is The Three E.P’s - that’s obvious. Others proclaim it as a return to form for the slightly grizzled Scots. Some people haven’t actually listened to it, or don’t know who they are.

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I had been a bit underwhelmed by it to be honest. So I was a bit unsure what to expect from their gig at Rock City last night. I knew the beer would be crap, and was sure the band would play Dry The Rain, the big song they began their journey with, and soundtrack to the best scene in the movie High Fidelity. The beer was indeed crap, but there was no Dry The Rain. Yet, I left Rock City happy as a loon for several reasons.

“Oh, I love this one”, I’d whisper to whoever was next to me at the time, suddenly realising that I was listening to the opening bars of a new ‘Heroes…’ tune. Album opener Assessment is as big as a house, deliciously delivered live as some kind of statement of intent, with a build towards crunching guitars and some fine whooping noises. Wonderful flits between typical Beta-mope and wide-eyed psychedelic hands in the air heart-wrencher. Liquid Bird and Simple were equally spot-on, and without question, it was the new Heroes... songs that seemed to lift the atmosphere.

I’ve been to many gigs at Rock City over the years, and I’ve seen it go off like a bomb on many occasions. Rarely is the crowd quiet, attentive and patient. I felt like a visitor in some kind of musical zoo, gawping at some new, exotic, Scottish highland monkeys.

My friend Big Lee was by far the most vocal member of the audience, waiting for each lull between songs to scream his request for the often disliked Beta Band Rap. Eventually frontman Steve Mason delivered his response, through a slightly bemused expression, requesting said song be “...put in a box and sealed, and placed under the bar where nobody can find it.” As far as I could tell, Big Lee was delighted with this response - a small victory that also spared any of us having to actually here the song.

We were given a hat-trick of big songs from the aforementioned The Three E.P’s which served as a reminder of beta-testing era hypnotic tunesmithery (Push It Out), but it was the new stuff that showed the band have reached a more accomplished plateau.

Obviously the Beta Band are still up for it. It’s clear they still like a laugh, as proven by their turns in the opening film Troubled Samurai, and the good-humoured banter on stage. I’m hoping Heroes To Zeroes can manage to re-ignite affections for the band - and it certainly deserves to - although I’d urge anyone lucky enough to be anywhere near their tour to go along and make sense of it from a live perspective.

And, thanks to this little review, Amazon will now sell five copies of The Three E.P’s by the ‘Bayda’ Band. That’s assuming that life really does imitate art, imitating Hollywood, imitating art.

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