Gig review: The Phantom Band

Glasgow's Phantom Band stirred up a strange but strong brew. Picture: Contributed
Glasgow's Phantom Band stirred up a strange but strong brew. Picture: Contributed
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“BRUISED but still standing,” were Phantom Band frontman Rick Anthony’s apt words after proposing a toast to the future health of the Art School’s Mackintosh building, which was badly damaged by fire not a fortnight ago.

The Phantom Band - The Art School, Glasgow


Every attendee at this near sold-out gig in the adjacent, recently extensively reconstructed Art School union surely can’t have helped but gaze up at the Mac’s charred façade with a heavy heart as they came or went. With shows such as this one in support of the Phantoms’ just-released third album Strange Friend, it’s back to business on campus, but the fate which has befallen that iconic building won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

Still a little stiff coming out of hibernation as a live entity – this was the Glasgow six-piece’s first gig in several years – all didn’t sound exactly as it should, with Anthony’s voice struggling to quite make the high notes in the magnificent chorus of shrewdly-anthemic opener The Wind That Cried The World. But they’ll warm up with more touring. The key thing to take away from this set was the strength of the new songs debuted, each further thickening the strange brew served by these true sonic alchemists.

Doom Patrol came out of a sludge metal bridge into a passage of cosmic disco. (Invisible) Friends resembled Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark synth-pop with near baroque flourish, while Women of Ghent’s final third felt positively ravey, as the lights dropped and coloured strobes backlit the stage. All of the above will only sound better once brought into the same performance comfort-zone the Phantom Band entered when playing older material.

Tracks from their 2009 debut album Checkmate Savage – Folk Song Oblivion, Howling and Throwing Bones were all standouts – and the set’s explosive endpoint was an extended instrumental jam based around Crocodile, firmly underscoring the rock in krautrock.

It was a pleasure throughout to observe the uneasy handshake the Phantom Band achieve between disparate, ancient-meets-modern elements, be it Anthony’s vocals sung with almost folky phrasing, and coloured with a slight Aberdeenshire hue, or Duncan Marquiss’s bluesy slide guitar parts augmented with effects pedal heaviosity. And hovering above all that flying-saucer style, were Andy Wake’s circling, retro-futuristic Moog synthesiser lines, the sci-fi feel of which was heightened by intermittent bursts of dry ice that some over-enthusiastic tech kept blasting from the sides of the stage, often obscuring the band altogether. Phantoms indeed.

Seen on 03.06.14