A cold, wet Monday night may not be the most obvious setting for a blast of rock n' roll debauchery, but with three howlin', bubblegum chewin', punk rock spewin' bands from Stockholm, Sweden, hell bent on ripping the Glasgow ABC2 stage apart, that's exactly what we got. Backyard Babies have been gone too long, but with a mighty Four By Four comeback album, the foursome were as hungry and hard hitting as you could imagine. Add in energy packed sets from Junkstar and Heavy Tiger and the heat was seriously turned up to rid a rather damp, but hugely enthusiastic Glasgow crowd of the early winter blues.
A three piece punk n' roll band in the manner that only the Swedes know how, Junkstar wasted little time in hitting top gear. The barrage of riffs tumbling from the stage rewarding the early arrivals with a serious fist of fun. Bassist Tobbe "Bronxen" Ljungqvist was a threatening ball of energy, his tattooed torso glistening with sweat within the first few seconds, his fulsome beard almost ablaze, such was the ferocity of his beat keeping convulsions. Singer and guitarist Max Malmquist however was a little more controlled, his you sing 'em I'll shout 'em vocals fitting the ramshackle rock perfectly. Neither he, nor "Bronxen" will ever be classed as the world's greatest singers and yet combined they make a harmonious racket that's hard to resist. In truth the songs aren't anything earthshaking, but the energy with which they were delivered ensured no one cared and as "Go To Hell" heralded the end of their short set, the crowd noise suggested Junkstar had made many new friends.
Up next were the questionably named Heavy Tiger, another trio of Swedes. But this time what Stockholm had in store for Glasgow was a three piece of skin tight red catsuited (with silver Heavy Tiger logos!) lasses who looked like they'd slipped straight out the 1970s. In truth, the mainly male, mainly older than the twenty somethings onstage audience, gave a few glances of "what the forkinhell is this?", before a short credibility building AC/DC burst of "Girls Got Rhythm", knocked a few of those questioning looks from their faces. Blowing away the accusations of "bubblegum" rock might not be so easy for these ladies though, a decided The Runaways vibe going down, although the hit of Cheap Trick and early Kiss was never far away. Maja Linn is a fine guitarist and she also possesses an attitude spiked voice, while drummer Astrid Carsbring – who has a cowbell and sure knows how to use it! – also handled lead vocals with aplomb, even if her stage raps were a little forced and over rehearsed. However with songs like "Saigon Kiss", "Chinatown", "Girls Got Balls" (they surely do!) and a cracking cover of Zep's "Living Loving Maid" hitting the spot, Heavy Tiger made for a bigger aural spectacle than their initial visual one suggested – even if most of the chaps in attendance were too intimidated by three super confident and talented young ladies to say hello at the merch stall later on…
Satisfying though the starters had been, when the main course hit the stage the rise in class was unmistakable. The promise and endeavour of two fledgling acts replaced by the sure footed, controlled aggression of an outfit long stage hardened, but a million miles from jaded. Backyard Babies don't just play ballsy rock n' roll, they live and breathe it and with a pointed attack that never strays from its intended target, they have the sounds to back up the bluster. Singer/guitarist Nicke Borg was a snarling smack of smash and grab riffs and searing vocals, his co-guitarist Dregen a far more pinpoint attack than his 'barely here' demeanour would suggest. In fact so worldly weary is his appearance, that he manages to get through a show without crumpling to the ground is a feat in itself. However stick a guitar in his hand and he becomes a duck walking, dervish spinning, crowd cajoling master. Add to that some genuinely witty asides and not only does the guitarist snag the attention, he damn well near stole the show.
However it was the songs which managed that feat, "Th1rte3n Or Nothing", "Dysfunctional Professional" and "Star War" a whirlwind of potency that just about knocked the crowd backwards, while "Nomadic" commanded all to bang their heads, punch the air and sing every word. Together they made for an impressive outburst, undoubtedly proving this band's calibre and then some. Working in a mixture of fan favourites alongside a couple of new tracks, the intensity of the set was masterfully handled, a succession of mini-crescendos building towards a mighty bop in the face at the show's close. Keen to hear more, the crowd called the foursome back to the stage, the acoustic guitars broken out for "Abandon", before "Minus Celsius" and "Look At You" hammered home the good time, but set in the real world sounds this band so specialise in. As the show neared its close, bassist Johan Blomquist joined Dregen in causing the young ladies in the front row to back away from their heroes for fear of being caught in a rain of sweat, the pair beyond dripping by the time the night was brought to an end – although there was still time for an ill advised, full on stage dive from Junkstar's "Bronxen", which simply flattened the unfortunate lady who took the full force of the bearded diver on her head, before they both hit the floor with some force…
Taking time to remember the tragic, incomprehensible events that happened at a metal show, and elsewhere, in Paris just a few days before, Backyard Babies soaked up the well deserved adulation after a moment of genuine and well placed introspection. If rock n' roll can do one thing, it can ensure the good times keep rollin', even when the world tries desperately hard to stop them. Backyard Babies are as rock n' roll as gets, and tonight Glasgow was left in absolutely no doubt of that fact.