The first time I saw Bitter Ruin I jumped.
I think I'll always remember that; standing at the very front at Oran Mor, unsure about who exactly the support were. I'd briefly looked at their Myspace and was impressed by “Trust” but I still had no bigger picture of who they were. Chewing Gum started, the soft la-ing of Georgia lulling me into a false sense of security, before inevitably she belts out “GET IT OUT, GET IT OUT, GET IT OUT.”
Perhaps it's that I wasn't expecting it, or perhaps it's because there was such power in her, such raw emotion that it cuts you to the quick. If there's one thing Bitter Ruin excel at, it's emotional rapture- somewhere between musical fireworks and heroin.
So, we come to their return to Glasgow, and to the lovely setting of Ivory Blacks. First up is Jim Byrne, who I have to admit is pretty awesome. Despite the fact that he offers us the choice between Blues and Country; which I think must be the Red Neck/Deliverance equivalent of Sophie's Choice, he plays some decent songs. I meet him later and get his autograph; congratulating him on a job well done.
This is followed by the sensation that is Hannah O Reilly. I have never heard of her before; though in retrospect I had never heard of Ruin before Amanda Palmer...Perhaps this is the onset of some kind of insane constant loop of finding great acts through support. I certainly hope so.
Hannah is a larger than life personality, an irresistible lure always willing to engage with the crowd. And do we ever engage. Whether we're cheering along to songs about murdering an old lover, stabbing a prostitute with her own shoe (“Stilleto”, which elicited a gleeful Wayne's World quote from me) or joining her in climaxing throughout “Valium Country”, she never fails to impress, entrance and entertain.
She also has the banter down with the audience, regaling us in a southern drawl about how she likes to kill folk, or playing with her kazoo. Multi-talentedness is always a delightful plus!
I buy her album and she signs it; not simply with her name, but with interesting little notes. She does this at the bar, we share a bit of banter- mostly about how awesome I think she was- and all is right with the world. Except...
Well, in my pursuit of autographed trinkets and celebrity association, I lose my place in the crowd. I was at the front, the very front, for two bands! Admittedly that only served to put me next to the shrill drunk fans who've been shouting with bemusing regularity throughout, but it was the front!
I settle in a few rows behind, and wait.
The ruination begins, and it is wonderful. Opening with “The Vice”, Bitter Ruin are on top form. Georgia's robotic movements remind you of something from an old play- like a figment of black and white come to life. Doll-like and wonderful, she is complimented perfectly by Ben's artful guitar work and well-pitched vocals. From there we are into “Soldier”, an ode to a relationship you can't escape from. Again, it is wonderful.
I'll drop to highlights now; we have Stand to Attention; the old favourite with all the photographing! Full of passion and power, lyrics are belted out by Georgia, accompanied by Ben's insistant military phraseology; a mantra and a backbeat .
There is “Dancing Dolls of Porcelain” where we all have to be extra rowdy at the chorus in order to win sweets, and we succeed beautifully; the song is one of my favourites from the new album- catchy and upbeat with that constant edge of dark passion.
“Brand New Me” is another song which grips you; a light and fluffy sort of a song that Georgia encourages you to imagine as draped in Wizard of Oz imagery. Her gently dark lyrics are wonderfully executed, especially towards the end.
New song Relief features more of the same sort of chemistry; a cymbal banging ode to the wild west, with our heroes in a stand-off. I have to admit I was impressed by this one, and wish it was available for repeated listening...
Arses were signed. We shall avoid all mention.
Deficiency of You is another song from the new album, and another that goes a little slower. Meditative and musing, it's a shared song- showing off the talents of both Ben and Georgia; either of their efforts never fail to ensnare.
Outrageous is a song that I was looking forward to hearing live, since they didn't get to play it at Oran Mor. Very high pitched, it is launched into with aplomb
Old favourite“Trust” makes a wonderful appearance; I've always loved the chemistry that exists there- the back and forth dynamic of the band, the overlapping singing before the confrontation. “How can you ask me to trust you again?” implores Ben before Georgia snaps “Did I ask you to trust me at all?” I love it.
Soundproof Box. Soundproof Box. What can I say about Soundproof Box. I never actually knew it was about a ghost till they told us; but it remains perhaps my favourite song from the new album (Trust is likely my favorite from the old). It's hard to relate to a song about being disconnected from life, when it touches so deeply- it's an emotional tug at the heart and with the revelation of it being about being a ghost unable to interact with a world you loved, I can't help but relate the title to a coffin.
The time is running short, but the band come back for a few more songs (Encouraged by the awesome chant of “FUCKING BEN!”. Chewing Gum plays, and I remember seeing them for the first time; I remember that shudder, that shock running through me, before the onset of stunned awe. It grips me just as much as the first time.
Beware is their last song of the night, a song notable in that if you don't like it you get to see the band dead. It's a sad sort of back and forth edged with a wariness about love (at least in my opinion). It's a beautiful end to the evening; a sad and haunting end which promises only future happiness.
After all; they have to come back some time, and Hannah gigs in Scotland. I can only hope that my calender is a little bit more crowded in the months to come. :)