Music review: Hurray for the Riff Raff, St Luke’s, Glasgow

New Orleans-based Hurray for the Riff Raff lit up a (very) dark St Luke’s stage with songs of escape, liberation and determination, writes Fiona Shepherd

Hurray for the Riff Raff PIC:  Akasha Rabut / Indie Film Lab
Hurray for the Riff Raff PIC: Akasha Rabut / Indie Film Lab

Hurray for the Riff Raff, St Luke’s, Glasgow ****

“We love the darkness,” claimed Alynda Mariposa Segarra, aka Hurray for the Riff Raff – referring to their preference for low to the point of non-existent stage lighting.

Perhaps that’s not the best choice for engagement with their performance and ironic really, given that Segarra’s music seeks to shine a light – on abuse, corruption, exploitation.

The New Orleans-based bandleader revisited their roots for 2017 breakthrough album The Navigator, making research trips to Puerto Rico and their family hood in the Bronx, New York, producing a rich, politicised tapestry, while latest album Life On Earth has been designated “nature punk” but manifested live as driving indie rock mantras.

The set got interesting with the arrival of Rican Beach, a border desert rocker with warrior whoops, burnished guitar wrangling and anti-colonial testifying, while Precious Cargo carried testimony from asylum seekers Segarra worked with as a volunteer.

These were songs of escape, liberation and determination. Segarra often sang from the perspective of the survivor. Introducing The Body Electric as sadly still as relevant as when it was first written, they reclaimed an old murder ballad – “Well, Delia’s gone, but I’m settling the score” – to make its trenchant point about violence against women, in music and in reality.

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Vocal lines were sometimes semi-spoken, chanted or, on one bouncy rock 'n' roll number, yelped, but the likes of Pointed at the Sun really showcased Segarra’s instinctive vocals, combining power and a cry in the tone, not unlike Martha Wainwright but with choppier phrasing.

The set ended on an indie incantation, accelerating and building into a cathartic cry in the semi-murk of St Luke’s stage before Segarra and band returned to deliver another driving rock 'n' roller and a low-slung Bowiesque glam torch song with bonus Latino flourish.