U.S. Girls live at Broadcast,  Glasgow  27th October 2015
Supported by Blood Of The Bull

In a stunning contrast to the vulnerable wanton characters that inhabit her cerebral, plaintive, family tree of maladies, a statuesque Meg Remy cuts a confident striking pose on stage tonight. Despite the dank cellar location, which unintentionally at least evokes the kind of low key atmosphere of catching a fresh-faced, Camille Paglia approved, Madonna on the cusp of the 80s New York sound clash, a slick black leotard dressed Remy oozes charisma and salacious energy. It’s impossible to take your eyes off her as she walks amongst us with the mic cable slung over her shoulder or, when she hugs, holds on to and flops over what little there is of the venue’s stage props; her long locks now shorn for a refreshing close-cropped pixie style haircut. At this point it seems I’m obsessed but in the Cassevates, Michael Ondaatje, Springsteen reference heavy pop world of the U.S. Girls the look of each adopted role is just as important: Remy wears the make-up and clothes of her protagonist’s well.

The music is…well, utterly beguiling, compelling and vibrant. With only the almost indifferent aloof looking Amanda Grist (reprising her role as backing vocalist on the current LP Half Free), as support, and a sometimes unwieldily blanket of reverb loops as backing, Remy runs through the lion’s share of her most accomplished, and possibly the year’s best, album. Intermitted by cassette tape vignettes, which sometimes work and at other times threaten to engulf their maker, a raw emotional performance amplifies the original songbook’s danceable qualities: It’s infectious once Remy instigates the first move, the audience joining in with an entranced motion. Exceptional, the best single of 2015 and already near-perfect, ‘Damn That Valley’ comes alive and throbs, and the slick pining disco noir of the revived Gloria Anna Taylor ‘Window Shades’ is masterfully lifted to another level; far more energetic than its slicker original.

Under blue and red lighted hues Remy is unshakable tonight, even when one of her trio of microphones acts up creating a whining feedback loop, she graciously without missing a heartbeat disconnects and discards it before making her way through a parting crowd to the sound engineer to grab a replacement. Commanding then, even domineering as she fixes an uneasy gaze upon the front row, Remy pushes the limits, rasping and angry on Half Free‘s closing rapture ‘Woman’s Work’. The Catholic Baroque operatic meets Moroder minor opus is delivered with truly sonorous and heart-wrenching commitment.

Taking a faux-classical theatre bow before returning with an encore, Remy finishes the evening with Half Free‘s opener ‘Sororal Feelings’. Again she elevates it, reverberating the original’s churning grief with a transfixed wallow of Ronnie Spector heartbreak.

Despite the ambitious production and thematic scope of Half Free, Remy’s d.i.y. approach is in evidence as she retreats to the back of the room to hawk her t-shirts, CDs and vinyl. Approachable and extremely modest, it is (that word again) another striking contrast to her role as a performer. Gushing praise but it really does feel like we’re privy to something special and memorable this evening; witnessing one of the most important talents to emerge in a long time.

Before I sign-off, whether it was Remy’s choice or not, the support act Blood Of The Bull proved a congruous complementary choice. Some misgivings admittedly, as the solo artist behind this quasi-ritualistic moniker Hillary Lahoma Van Scoy gingerly struck up the first chords of her mellotron inspiral vortex. Plunking away in a hypnotic swirl, the folky esoteric pastoral canters proved bewildering, in a good way. Though so subtle in melodic changes as to sound all vaguely similar, and even with some tentative mistakes, this kooky quaint recital had positive touches of the Whicker Man, Broadcast, Delia Derbyshire and something the Finders Keepers label might have found, rescued from obscurity. Quintessentially English sounding, though she is an American living in Glasgow, Blood Of The Bull proved a surprising highlight.

Words:  Dominic Valvona

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