Tragic O’Hara – Pivo Pivo, Glasgow – 27/7/11

Posted: 28/07/2011 in Local Music
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Tonight’s gig is billed as serving a dual purpose; A birthday party for Traffic Cone Records which also serves as a rally to promote the Tragic O’Hara is Innocent campaign, with the man himself headlining.

Post-watershed Pivo Pivo is in near darkness as the audience wait for Tragic O’Hara to take the stage and his arrival, when it comes, is punctuated by raucous cheers and sees him chaperoned by drummer and Jump On video co-conspirator Colin Hunter and a traffic cone.

Tragic, standing side-on and facing the right of the stage, offers no introduction as the lights remain dimmed and his eminently powerful voice, wrought with emotion and accompanied only by his own clapping, captivates those assembled and leads them up to the midpoint of his first song. It is here, dead on cue, where stage lights and drums flare and the tone of tonight’s performance is set.

As this first offering draws to a close and the audience takes a second to register what they’ve just experienced, Tragic introduces himself before picking up his guitar and kicking into the next number.

As the evening continues, the crowd are treated to Tragic O’Hara’s distinctive blues rock, backed up by lashings of electric guitar gain and crashing drums. This is the blues, turned up to 11 and filtered through the mind of a pissed off Scotsman.

Not long into the proceedings comes a humorous aside, wherein Tragic suggests that songs are being made up as he and Colin “go along” but, if there is any improvisation at play tonight, it certainly doesn’t show. The two friends form a formidable duo as they peel through a set much more intense than Tragic’s usual live output, with both volume and distortion in absolute abundance.

This is shown to be the result of a conscious decision, on O’Hara’s part, when he apologises to his fans who are used to hearing him play acoustic sets, explaining that he “just feels like rockin out tonight.” For the most part, Tragic’s voice proves a worthy match for the increased aggression of the music, except in one or two places where guitarmanship threatens to drown out vocal prowess. However, this is easy to forgive when taking into account the fact the gig is intended to serve as an outlet for the frustrations, of both artist and fans, resulting from the controversy surrounding the bluesman’s latest music video. As a result, the pugnacity of the pairing’s output seems entirely appropriate.

These aggressive uptempo renditions combine with the low-key nature of the lighting and cavernous aesthetics of Pivo Pivo to make tonight feel exactly like what it has been hyped up to be – an underground, grassroots movement against what the Tragic O’Hara fanbase are accepting as a grave injustice. There is a beery but convivial atmosphere and all present appear to be having a ball, with constant shouts of encouragement, waving of homemade banners and demands for “another tune.”

Dressed in a black suit and two-tone wingtip shoes, Tragic captures perfectly the traditional air of a travelling musician and displays an easy and relaxed propensity for banter, joking back and forth with the crowd. However, underneath this is a tangible air of introspection which seems to tie in with, and possibly explain, his decision not to directly face his audience. Consequently, the Tragic O’Hara live experience feels a bit deeper than those where the average happy-go-lucky frontman ticks the boxes with cocky comments and macho posturing and this, coupled with his confessional song-writing style, sees that the musician does well in coming across as the ‘everyman,’ giving the audience someone to relate to.

Aside from the inspired moment where a member of the audience takes to the stage wielding a Tragic O’Hara is Innocent banner during Jump On – the song behind the contoversy – the highlight of the evening is a notably heavy cover of New Order’s Blue Monday. Those in attendance who evidently remember the original are moved to their feet and numerous lone dancers become as much a part of the show as the man onstage. Interestingly, although it goes down an absolute storm with the crowd, this is the place in the set where the performance is at its loosest, having the feel of two pals jamming together for the fun of it. Certainly an endearing moment, reminiscent of the ‘bromance’ on display between the pair in the video.

Said ‘bromance’ comes to an abrupt halt at the end of the penultimate song, however, when a seemingly heated exchanging of words between the performers sees Colin storming offstage and leaving the venue. There does exist, in performance, the responsibility of professionalism and such tantrums, whatever the reason behind them, are unfair to fellow performers, event organisers and audiences. Whereas the Liam Gallaghers and Axl Roses of this world may be able to get away with palming this sort of thing off as another facet of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, in this drastically smaller scale local context, it just comes across as petty and immature.

To give the frontman his due though, despite being visibly vexed by the outburst – speculating that his accomplice “obviously canny take a fuckin joke” – he finishes the set with a final song and a few well-placed thank yous.

Every aspect of tonight’s performance can be seen to show a part of Tragic O’Hara’s endearing appeal: Songs with meaning, glimpses of an intriguing personality, a touch of style and the ability to cause trouble everywhere he goes.

Definitely a spectacle worth witnessing!

EDIT: Since the time of going to press, Colin Hunter has posted a YouTube video which gives his views on the disagreement. This can be found via the link at the bottom.

Tragic O’Hara on Facebook

Tragic O’Hara is Innocent Facebook campaign

Colin Hunter’s YouTube video response

  1. Billy Mackabe says:

    This has gone too far!I really like both Traggics and Colins Music and i think they’re ace guys! I wonder if this argument was intentional and part of the campaign promotion??If it is then thats clever and brilliant! If not..i really do think they should figure this out, and hook up again.

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