Mudhoney, The Vaselines
To begin a brief description of the venue for those unfamiliar with it. The Playhouse is, as the name may suggest, an old theatre, lending superb acoustics, and through shape and vibe seems to be a cross between the Mandela and the Grand Opera House, with those gold moulded bits on the walls and a couple of levels, but with a big wide stage and open bit in front of it. And sticky floors - it was as though someone had covered the floor with a mixture of mud and honey. Forthcoming gigs there include the likes of Editors and Nick Cave, which made it seem an ambitious booking for a couple of bands into their 3rd decades. The couple of thousand there confirmed I was wrong.
The Vaselines are the de facto local boys (and lady) this evening, having recorded a lot in Edinburgh despite not being natives, and perhaps it's this that explains the relative coolness of the crowd towards them, even on those tracks made famous by Cobain's love of them. The crowd's loss, for songs like Son Of A Gun are as glorious catchy, messy, influential punky pop as when they helped to inspire grunge and informed so much on both sides of the Atlantic. Molly's Lips has that slight country twang that informs so much of Scottish and Irish music, and through the diaspora so much of American music outside the big coastal cities. Monsterpussy is prefaced with a tale of how the Beeb banned it from a live session last week because of implied cruelty to cats. Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam makes an appearance, but the show stealer is You Think You're A Man, cruel and dirty but undeniably catchy pop, albeit not as synthy as the recorded version, but with that whipping riff and barbed chorus, almost as barbed as their thanks to Mudhoney "for being older than us".
Having been warmed (greased?) up by their fellow old-timers, Mudhoney hit us like a hurricane, the power and depth of their back catalogue being emphasised by an old B-side, The Money Will Roll Right In from 1991 being followed up by 2008's I'm Now, from dirty grungy pop to more conventional rock and roll, albeit of the sort envisioned by The Stooges and other proto-punks. Of course they're less chaotic and crazy than their late 1980s and early 1990s breakthrough era, but they've still got the musicianship (often underrated) and the feline Mark Arm, leaping around like a younger, less drug-addled and healthier Iggy (before he sold out). The pounding drum attack of The Lucky Ones gives way to a sinister, feral howl of the hard blues of Next Time, a perverted love song of dark intent that would scare the authorities. However, for most of the crowd it's the oldies that they want to hear. Suck You Dry prompts the first moshpit of the evening as we're caught under the spell of Arm's siren-like demonically charming voice. Sweet Young Thing Ain't Sweet No More is as sleazy (and accurate) a tale of growing up as exists, right down the threat "wait till your father comes home", all debauched slide guitar good/badness. Its partner, Touch Me I'm Sick (paired together in one of the great singles of all time) heralds more injury causing mosh-pitting and crowd-surfing as we go mad for the perfect package of beats, riffs, howls and sentiment. When Tomorrow Hits shows the aforementioned musicianship, a slow-burning spiral of building blues, the crowd singing from the opening bars before feedbacking into a riotous In 'n' Out Of Grace. A quick band meeting, prompted by a lack of time, scraps the pre-encore walk-off as they play through ending on their traditional closing cover, Hate The Police', the joy and vitality coming through clearly in their performance, a band who because of their break and wilderness years have never become jaded or tired.