Gig review: Bay City Rollers, Barrowland, Glasgow

Bay City Rollers. Picture: John Devlin
Bay City Rollers. Picture: John Devlin
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WHO would have thought that the mere coming together of two factions of an old band would generate such excitement? Yet, as we have learned over the years, pop music is a serious business and the teenage girls who keep that industry replenished have a long memory.

Bay City Rollers | Rating: *** | Barrowland, Glasgow

So this burgeoning Bay City Rollers reunion – bringing together singer Les McKeown and guitarists Stuart “Woody” Wood and Alan Longmuir for the first time since the early 80s – was (almost) all about the memories. And those memories inevitably came wrapped in red tartan. The fans’ extraordinary display of scarves, shirts, collars, cuffs plus - new for the season - tartan Stetsons, all contributed to an atmosphere as dedicated and celebratory as there has ever been at Barrowland on this first night of the Rollers comeback.

• READ MORE: Dani Garavelli: Bay City Rollers are back but remain haunted

Such tartan overload, right down to the trim on those half-mast trews, made the band’s efforts look tastefully restrained, with Longmuir in sober, distinguished waistcoat, Wood more daring in his Rupert the Bear yellow coat, McKeown opting for red trim on his white frock coat and a tartan-clad backing band ready to storm every sha-la-la-la, every shooby-doo-oh of the best-selling back catalogue.

The bold, brazen 50s pop pastiches, such as the opening Summerlove Sensation and Give A Little Love, which were custom written for the band by Bill Martin and Phil Coulter, were by far the strongest renditions of the set. Clod-hopping tributes to their influences, such as Dusty Springfield and The Ronettes, were delivered with all the sophistication of a last orders singalong and a succession of stodgy Christmas clunkers missed their Slade/Roy Wood target by a mile. At least their take on contemporary mid-70s pop hits Have I The Right? and The Bump struck the right trashy note and new Rollers single Boomerang is a decent glam bash.

However, these novelties were simply marking time until they brought out the bubblegum big guns. Saturday Night, the glorious teenage rampage that broke them in America (and allegedly influenced The Ramones), is still their most euphoric moment. Their signature song Shang-A-Lang combines rough street politics and doo-wah-diddy teenybop pop in one perfect package which, along with their faithful cover of The Four Seasons’ Bye Bye Baby, more festive than anything in their Christmas set, proved the ideal rallying cry for this fresh, though more contained wave of Rollermania.

• Barrowland, Glasgow, 21-23 December; Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 27-28 December