Hey Negrita have gone through difficult times since the one and only other occasion they played Glasgow in support to the Alabama 3 back in October 2006.

Shortly after that the London-based country blues outfit's keyboardist Hugo Heimann and guitarist Gus Glen decided, at the end of the year in which Hey Negrita had played nearly sixty American and British dates, that hard touring was not for them and both quit. Hey Negrita's remaining members, singer and acoustic guitarist Felix Bechtolsheimer and drummer Neil Findlay, too briefly thought about giving up, but then elected to carry on, recruiting into a new line-up Matthew Ord (electric guitars, backing vocals), Paul Sandy (upright bass) and Captain Bliss (harmonica, backing vocals).

A lot else has changed too since then. Stage prop and original "fifth member" Walter, a leering plastic skeleton and gallows-humoured reminder of Bechtolsheimer's one-time battle against heroin addiction, is gone. Gone too are the jeans and T-shirts that the band used to wear on stage, and in their place are smart brogue shoes, crisp white shirts and dark 'Reservoir Dogs' suits.

While Hey Negrita's debut album, 'We are Catfish', told of the death of many of Bechtosheimer's drug buddies and his slow-crawl recovery from addiction, and their second album, 'The Buzz Above', was about the traumatic collapse of a long term love affair, the material on their forthcoming third album, 'You Can Kick', and first in their new line-up, is lighter in tone. The dark themes of the past linger under the surface, but are contrasted by a joie de vivre for touring, of being able to fall in love again, and above all for having survived.

This new-found sense of optimism transports well onto the stage of the Oran Mor. Bechtolsheimer, who quickly abandons his jacket to reveal a pair of bright red braces, is boyish and charming in his in-between song patter, and is an enthusiastic live performer, playing his guitar and singing gustily. Bliss is an extraordinary visual presence. Dancing barefoot, he contorts and slithers his wiry, wisp-thin body around the stage, while his sublime backing vocals and vibrating wails of harmonica lift each song to a new level. One should not, however, under-rate the other members of the group. The bleached blonde-haired Neil Findlay, his face half hidden behind large shades, is with his crackling drum work an almost equally forceful stage presence, while Matthew Ord with his tingling, bluegrass-influenced guitar work and the poker-faced Paul Sandy with sharp, thoughtful plucks of double bass provide firm backing.

New album tracks, the breezy 'Go Again' and the honky tonk blues of 'Cold', are thrown early into the set, along with the double whammy of forthcoming single, 'Room Service', a chugging bluegrass number, and the thunderous vinyl-only first single off the album, 'Rope'. "My Dad hasn't heard it yet", Bechtolsheimer quips about the latter. "He doesn't own a record player."

The middle and the latter part of the ten song main set concentrate mainly on songs from the first two albums-the brooding 'Can't Walk Away' ; calypso/delta blues number 'One Mississippi' ; bleakly comical date-from-hell saga 'Nine to Five' and rollicking closer, 'Devil in My Shoes'. Yet these are wildly inventive new versions. Hugo Heimann’s magisterial keyboards dominated the original songs, but Bliss's blasts of harmonica and backing vocals ; Ord’s inventive textures of guitar and Sandy’s sturdy, rock-steady double bass playing both fill and build on the immense gaps that they have left behind. With two other new album songs, the reflective ‘Fishin’ and choppy country number ‘Lies’ , providing the encores, this is an absolutely superb show.

Hey Negrita have not just survived. They have reached new heights.












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