Live Review – Sophie’s Pigeons, Julia and the Doogans & Panda Su

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Sophie’s Pigeons, Julia and the Doogans & Panda Su
Brel, Glasgow
17th February 2010

First of all, I hate buses. Two of the swines failed to turn up at the times they were meant to, leaving me running way late for this gig.
So it was that I turned up slightly harassed, in a bad mood, and having missed the start of Sophie’s Pigeons. Not the best of starts then.
Thankfully it only took about a minute for Sophie’s Pigeons to lift my mood. A three piece from around Manchester, aside from a quick listen on MySpace when I knew I was going to be seeing them they were totally unknown to me before tonight, Sophie plays piano and sings, Beckie plays saxophone and melodica, while Phillip hits things. Poppy and infectious as heck, any annoyance at mythical buses was soon blown away. There’s a danger when there’s a girl sat at a keyboard things can go all Tori Amos, but while I could certainly hear an element of Tori in Sophie’s vocals the band’s wit and apparent determination to have fun at all costs meant there was never any risk of things turning too po-faced or annoying. While attempts at audience participation had mixed results – only Ian from Have Fun At Dinner joined in with the singing, showing off an impressive falsetto in the process – nothing else fell flat. Frankly I find it hard to do anything but enjoy and admire a band that both pull of a cover version of Shakira’s She Wolf, and end with a song called Boring Fucking Cunts. Sophie’s Pigeons turned out to be one of those unexpected delights that make getting out to gigs worthwhile.

It is hardly a secret that I have much love for Julia and the Doogans, so it’ll come as no surprise that they only let down from them was that Julia’s oven wasn’t working, so there were no cupcakes on the go. Luckily between stuffing myself with cakes when seeing the band on Sunday and filling myself with pancakes on Tuesday cake wasn’t very high on my list of priorities.
Playing with a full band tonight – for a while at least, band members dropped off throughout the set until only Julia was left – Julia and the Doogans remain as good as they have been every time I’ve seen them. Warm, gentle, lovely songs, a great live band, and beautiful vocals, once again. It wasn’t all plain sailing though, it almost went horribly, horribly wrong, when for the penultimate song Julia decided to do a cover version. Coldplay’s The Scientist. I wasn’t alone in getting a little worried at that point, clearly I wasn’t the only person in the room with a dislike for Coldplay, the identity of the person behind me and her audible reaction shall remain secret. Thankfully, pleasantly, surprisingly, Julia didn’t just get away with the cover but with just her and her guitar she – in the words of every judge on every TV talent show on the planet – made The Scientist her own, and rescued it from my hatred.

Panda Su is another that I’ve hardly shied away from admiring in the past either, but this set was without doubt the best I’ve seen from Su and her band. The songs were always good, and past gigs were great, but there was something about the band tonight that really just clicked perfectly. Jonnie Common was in attendance for his now customary banjo playing cameo on Eric Is Dead, a song which does genuinely send a pleasant tingle up my spine, and the band showed of a bit of a reworking of Moviegoer on the night. I always seem to struggle to get across how good Panda Su is, how much I like the songs, and how bloody good Su & her band sound live, so just take it from me that they are a fantastic band, with beautiful songs delivered from the heart. There wasn’t a dull moment, nor a lull, in the set just a great girl with her guitar, her two backing men hitting or blowing into various things, and a whole lot of greatness.
Su teased us that one of her songs might soon be used in a television program – a dirty one in her words, go ahead and make your own guesses – and Panda Su is more than worthy of the exposure something like that would bring. I must admit when Su said they’d supported Lost Prophets I thought she was joking, but she wasn’t. I’m not sure what Lost Prophets fans would make of her, but if they had any sense they embraced that rather strange line up, and took our favourite Panda into their hearts.