It’s been quite some time since Anchor Lane last headlined Glasgow and in the intervening time, they’ve had a number of great opportunities afforded to them: playing Download and Isle of Wight Festivals, a return to Winter Storm and support slots with the likes of Stone Broken, Tremonti and Cheap Trick. And in between all that, they’ve found time to record their debut album. With two great acts before them on tonight’s bill and the album pre-order launching on the same night, it’s safe to say tonight is going to be a good one.
Salt River Shakedown kick off the night but due to the day job getting in the way, I sadly missed them. However, having seen them a couple of months back when they supported Crobot with Wolf Jaw and under their previous name, I’m sure they thoroughly impressed the audience.
As it was, I even missed in-house favourites Tomorrow is Lost take to the stage and by the time I arrive, they’re a couple of songs into their set but there’s two obvious takeaways before I’ve even snaked my down to the front. One: they’re already at full-tilt from the word go, as is the norm for them. Two: they’ve got the crowd in the palm of their hands. As a support act, they’re a perfect fit. The modern hard rock five piece are going for it guns blazing, eclipsing their Bloodstock performance by some way. Full of duelling driving guitars, chunky bass lines, enough drums to give your bangover a bangover and powerhouse vocals, it’s everything you want from a rock band in 2019.
Having been working on their album since then, they’re keen to bring all the energy they can muster and show the fruits of their labours. And from what we heard, I can already predict it’s going to end up being one of the highlights of 2020. However, the end for them comes far too soon and there’s a definite feeling that the band could have kept going. That said, they’ve suitably warmed up the crowd and by the time they depart, the cheers are much louder and engaged than when I arrived. Another success for Tomorrow is Lost in Scotland, I’d say!
Now, for the men of the hour. Anchor Lane waste no time in making their presence known with the one-two punch of openers “Clocks” and old favourite “Annie”. With many of the songs played tonight set to feature on their upcoming album, Casino, dropping in the familiar early on to get the crowd singing, complete with a diversion into “We Will Rock You”, ensures they’ve got the crowd enraptured from the start. However, with the quality of their performance they put on, the crowd would have lapped it up even if they didn’t know a single song. Their own brand of modern hard rock is full of force, grit and determination, backed by four proficient musicians. The atmosphere in the room is positively a-buzz as they work their way through the set, clearly enjoying themselves as much as the audience.
Elsewhere, after “Annie”, it’s a run of new songs from the album such as “Honey” and “Dead Run”, the latter of which had none other than Ricky Warwick contribute his own songwriting talents too. And frankly, you can tell a mile away as his signature style is stamped all over it but his contribution has done wonders by elevating the rest of the songs to meet his quality. “Stone Cold Hearted” takes a slightly darker and sombre path but has an excellent hook to it. Meanwhile, the title track of the album, “Casino”, has a sleazy groove to it, perfect for the subject matter.
Vocalist and guitarist Conor Gaffney swaps his electric guitar for acoustic as he leads the poignant “Shell of Me” on his own for the first half with the remainder of the band taking a breather and shows his own development as a frontman. Not only can he do it, he holds the room to attention with ease before the rest of the band join him for the second half of the song. Keeping with the acoustic guitar, they rattle through “Whiskey in the Jar”, much more in the vein of Thin Lizzy/Black Star Riders than that woeful, saccharine Metallica version but still put their own stamp on it. The singalongs continue with old favourite “Finished for Twelve” and “Flatline” (full of “na-na-na”’s), the latter every bit as memorable as it was when it was debuted at the last headliner. So it’s only fitting that on the day of its release, “Fame Shame” closes the night. Fast and furious with a hint of Foo Fighters, it’s laden with rage.
Showing more confidence than ever before and a tangible chemistry between the four of them, it’s like watching a band who’s been performing for twenty years. As they make full use of the stage, they fill the space and the interplay between the four of them makes for some entertaining watching. Whilst I may have not had the chance to see them perform as often in the last year since guitarist Lawrence O’Brien’s addition, there’s no sense at all that he’s the “new boy”. He’s fitted in seamlessly and albeit he had big shoes to fill by following Jack Nicol, he’s done it with grace and reverence, more so on the older material and takes his own solo moment on “Bumblebee” as the rest of the band leave the stage. Not overbearing or overlong, he has fun with his time in the spotlight and keeps the crowd entertained.
As Lawrence and Conor trade licks, the pair of them prowl the stage, Conor’s vocals are on point throughout as he runs his personal vocal gamut. Meanwhile, bassist Matthew Quigley exudes an air of cool to his performance as ever, a more relaxed yet refined performance you’d be pushed to find. And while he may be tucked at the back, drummer Scott Hanlon gives a masterclass in drumming, visually entertaining with the skill to back it up aplenty. With songs full of maturity to bely their years and not a dip in quality throughout, as a band, they’re playing better than ever. The couple of New Beginning songs have also been slyly tweaked so now they sound like they could have been written by the band way later into their career than they were to give a more consistent feel to the night.
Watching the band develop and grow over the years has been nothing short of a privilege as they’ve become better musicians and tighter as a band, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen them a long time ago. At the risk of repeating myself from the past several years of reviews, every time just gets better than the last. If you had to pick just three acts to represent Glasgow’s musical output over the years, it’d be an easy list to construct: Alex Harvey, Gun and Anchor Lane. It’s another landmark show for them and the umpteenth reminder that they’re the best band Glasgow has produced in decades.