Cranes at King Tut’s Wah-Wah Hut, Glasgow, 1 September 2004

I’m a very amateur music reviewer, but I know what I like. I know what moves me in a time of intermittent emotional dynamism, and to have just over 90 minutes with Cranes once again was the perfect catalyst for this reconnection with facets long-hidden. Intangibly, this description doesn’t do anyone but myself any real good, but aurally, there are important things to note that others may be able to connect with after their own listening experiences.

As I had seen the band live before, I knew to some extent what to expect with the newer face of their sound and I was a bit concerned that the playlist for the evening would be too closely reflective of their move from Dedicated to Dadaphonic. At times, Cranes have seemed to put out the feeling that they wish to separate themselves from their older, darker image and sounds. We all get older, more mature, and mellowed out; this is not a disappointment but for the fact that some of their very best tracks are from the darker, louder phase of their career. Jim’s stint in recent production work and outside soundtrack projects is indicated by this new Dadaphonic Cranes, and both Future Songs (2001) and the just-released Particles and Waves reflect a willingness to use resonance and even silence to wash over the listener, instead of their traditional crashing wall of sound.

It lets you know
It lingers slowly until you know;
and I’m naked in your heart
I can’t make it stop,
I’m breaking in your heart
and I can’t make it stop.
I’d try and I can’t make it stop,
and I’d like it if you don’t ever stop.
In your heart, in your heart,
I feel naked in your heart…

The Glasgow show was a perfect combination of both, and certainly the best of the four live concerts I had seen thusfar. As if to indicate a willingness to uphold the tenets of their old religion, the first three songs of the night were dark and dreamy in their antique urgency, setting the stage for the newer tracks from Particles and Waves to take us down and give us a moment’s reprieve in between the longer periods of craving and longing. There was surprisingly no shortage of older songs; all together I counted four from Forever, three from Loved, three from Future Songs, and five from the new album – which were, thankfully, the five best tracks on it.

Look how all the moments fly –
I watch them race through space and time;
‘Cause I’ve been sitting here a while,
Just gazing closely in your eyes.

The beauty of live Cranes is that they have so many layers of sound, all carrying forth such great drama, passion, dream, and hope in one concise but fluctuating package. Each song is an embodiment of one or more of these qualities (and, of course, so many more unstated) and they don’t stop playing until the recognition of this is complete. The music demands it. The live tracks were all perfectly measured and tight, giving the audience just enough time to fall in and float languidly before changing the pace in a disarming rifting of our tenuous reverie. A new drummer and gutarist/keyboardist added style and power to old songs and delicacy and grace to the new ones; for certain, they are welcome additions to the live act. On more than one occasion I felt my eyes closing and I was drawn into the pulsating, driving waves that beckoned like poisonous sirens from the stacks, and with some shock I would snap awake again when the spell was complete. Such lucid travels are only made the more puzzling by the fact that Cranes have no image. There is no stage persona, and no affected energies or antics. The band is honest and interested in making us feel a certain way, and you can see it in Ali’s earnest movements as she directs her reflections, pleas, and promises over the tops of our heads. Being directly in front of her, watching one of her hands clenched to her stomach, the other with a pinky delicately curled around a belt-loop, I could almost hear the unsaid secrets beneath her whispers, as if they were made for only me.

Oh, my love, where are you now?
It feels like it’s the end of the world.
But I won’t let go if you won’t,
and I won’t say no if you won’t…

From the opening strains of near air-raid sirens on ‘Everywhere’ to the final hair-blasting assault on their final encore of ‘Adrift’ (which has now replaced the traditional finalé of ‘Starblood’ on recent tours), the band proved that they are still just as adept as crafting alluring entropy as when at their apex on the 1994 Loved tour. The soft, newer oscillations of ‘Fragile’ and ‘Here Comes the Snow’, however, created the antithetical feeling of unshakeable serenity and drowsiness which showed the musicians’ maturity and will to break down the barriers of scene, style, and genre to get their point across. This point is most easily mirrored in the gentle lilt of the sweet vocal melody in ‘Future Song’ : “You were my dream, how could you know?/You never dreamed I’d tell you so/Where do our spirits go?/Where do our heartbeats go?/Where do our best dreams go?” Alison is no longer a lost little girl, as some of her more morose fans have suggested. She is a best friend, a lover, and a mirror, and she carries this all in the way in which she delivers her lyrics as well as within the words themselves. You can’t help but believe her, or wonder how she knows.

This is a band whose music sums up more of who I am and what I aspire to be than any other. They embody so much hope and promise while juxtaposing it against a sea of discord and tumult. They create joy from the ashes of failure and solitude, and Alison’s words (if you can figure them out) conjure pain from great loss but also the acceptance and strength that come from moving onward and using memory and nostalgia as a constructive force rather than a destructive one. There’s nothing scary about the band anymore; they’re only beautiful. Against the distinctive drone and undulating underwater experience that her brother, Jim, effortlessly wields, Cranes turned another night out into an intimate growing experience that at the end left me thinking for the first time in years, “Didn’t they just start playing a minute ago?” I know what I like, and I urge you to open yourself up to this band if you’re not perhaps frightened of what you might find…

I feel those days without end
when we used to be friends
those summer days were spent
in search of hope and happiness

We used to while away our days
in a beautiful haze
I guess I knew one day
that you’d be moving long away

You said go back to your dream
back to your wilderness
go back along the walk
maybe you’ll find some happiness

I wept a thousand tears for you
for my love that came true
and though it seemed I wanted less
I’d always dreamed of tenderness

And though time passes by
and that our lives have changed
but our love was special
our love was strange

And though my heart broke
in time it did mend
except when I think about the time
that we used to be friends

17 Responses to “Cranes at King Tut’s Wah-Wah Hut, Glasgow, 1 September 2004”

  1. Anonymous Says:
    September 2nd, 2004 at 3:57 am

    Too Good For Rolling Stone
    Darren, you are such a great and passionate writer. With just a few simple and persuasive words I think I would buy the Brooklyn Bridge from you, if you were selling it. I maybe easy but you definitely are brilliant. Your writing is so deep and descriptive I feel like was right there beside you (thank you for ignoring my really bad shadow dancing, it’s truly unsafe to watch). ~ (*

  2. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 2nd, 2004 at 10:35 am

    Re: Too Good For Rolling Stone
    This, coming from a published music reviewer. I can't even tell you what that means to me.
    And I have pictures of you dancing, darling. 🙂

  3. spiffington Says:
    September 2nd, 2004 at 4:51 am

    The firey passions of that show will forever brand it onto my memory.
    Your description will carve a mark into the grains of my thoughts.
    Thank you for introductions and reminiscences.

  4. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 2nd, 2004 at 10:37 am

    And you soak it up like a sponge. They're made for you, they really are.

  5. spiffington Says:
    September 2nd, 2004 at 5:11 pm


  6. ubernacht Says:
    September 2nd, 2004 at 5:20 am

    Thanks for the post…it reminds me i've fallen behind with the Cranes…

  7. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 2nd, 2004 at 10:38 am

    There's always time to get back into 'em.
    I love that you had your 'second wind' not too long ago. I love that they sneak right up on people when they are forgotten for a time.
    I'll never forget. 🙂

  8. ethereal_lad Says:
    September 2nd, 2004 at 9:32 am

    Thanks for the review…they'll make it to the States soon, I hope.

  9. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 2nd, 2004 at 10:40 am

    Hopefully. Particles and Waves is not yet released there, I believe. But it's coming sooner rather than later.
    By the bye, I'm thrilled to know you're working on getting something published. I think you've a fabulous mastery of words.

  10. ethereal_lad Says:
    September 2nd, 2004 at 11:29 am


  11. dichroicynosure Says:
    September 5th, 2004 at 10:27 am

    this was an inspired/ing post. You read their soundscape well. Don't we all wish we were Cranes now?

  12. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 7th, 2004 at 8:37 pm

    You know this firsthand…
    I'm feeling rather Cranish at the moment…et tu?

  13. purpledonna Says:
    September 14th, 2004 at 11:38 pm

    Heya, i was at that gig too, remember me? Im the purple girl!
    Utterly fantastic and beautiful review by the way.

  14. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 14th, 2004 at 11:43 pm

    How could I possibly forget you?
    We've barely spoken, but you're my favourite purple girl in all of Edinburgh!
    So glad you liked the review, and thank you for reading. See you around very soon, I hope?

  15. purpledonna Says:
    September 15th, 2004 at 12:06 am

    Aw *blush* bless ya!
    Yep, Ascension this saturday-you going?
    I've added you, wanna add me?

  16. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 15th, 2004 at 12:20 am

    Done and done!
    Won't be there this weekend, sadly…isn't it on again on the 25th?

  17. purpledonna Says:
    September 15th, 2004 at 12:28 am

    Hmm, i dont know if it's on again on the 25th, wouldn't have thought so, perhaps it's Vain?
    Anyways, hope to see you soon.

Leave a Reply