It’s nearly half nine before anyone finds out that tonight’s support had failed to turn up but, being rational, it’s doubtful that people hadn’t figured it out themselves by then. Combined with a rather poor promotion job for the show (I don’t think I saw a single poster up for this anywhere in Glasgow), there are maybe twenty people when Purson take the stage, dressed in their finest. For anyone looking for a hint as to the band’s appearance, watch the camp brilliance of Dracula AD 1972. At the beginning, there’s a performance from an acid-fried pop-rock band called Stoneground and they are just about the most 70s band ever – Purson are their natural successors. It’s not retro chic, it’s not panto, they’re just really fucking 70’s.
Going for the big guns from the get-go, it’s the psychedelic stomp of ‘Spiderwood Farm’ that they lead with, Justin Smith’s reeling basslines and some thunderous drumming building into organ flourishes and, eventually, Rosalie Cunningham’s voice, floating high and filled with an affectionate mix of charm and drama. The collective bobs and weaves in increasingly erratic patterns, Smith throwing himself into these diversions while Cunningham fires off solos with laser precision, spiralling upwards into a chaotic and pleasantly messy end.
There’s an unashamedly poppy slant to Purson’s music but the sugared coating is a deceptive one. It never fully conveys the astonishing skill that these five can muster with almost foolhardy nonchalance: Samuel Shove’s deftly undulating organ runs on ‘Leaning on a Bear’; the lead breaks of ‘Mavericks and Mystics’, all executed with the knowing grins of a band having an absolute ball; the elastic thunder-rolls of James Last; they’re all interwoven with these urgent, toe-tapping tunes that no-one in their mind wouldn’t want to dance like freak to, the detailed embroidery on an already appealing garment. Even Cunningham’s voice is genuinely staggering, possessing a range that seldom, if ever, falters or waves. It’s an infinitely soulful presence, most notably when ‘Rocking Horse’ slows proceedings to almost a standstill, Cunningham’s rising plea to “take you to places you knew before” the gentle song’s most impressive moment until it flares up in final kosmische splendour.
If I haven’t already impressed this to you, I’ll make it clear – there is no such thing as a bad Purson song, and live this is even more evident. Their broadness of scope becomes more readily apparent, showing greater disparity between the relative bluntness of their hard-riffing moments, the absurd degrees of colour and creativity when they let their psychedelic side take over and the simple genius of tapping into a great, poppy hook. They pull it all off effortlessly and, more importantly, they look like they’re having fun with it. Cunningham trades quips with the band between songs, Smith takes on a weird stoned fugue as he loses himself to another great bassline and George Hudson demonstrates an instinctual rapport as he swaps leads with Cunningham. It rubs off on the crowd to the degree that the two-hour wait is forgotten about in around two minutes.
Closing with the pristine glisten of ‘Tragic Catastrophe’, it’s a somewhat subtle conclusion but it sums up the band pretty damn well. A great refrain and a simple “la la la” outro make it one of the night’s most memorable cuts though it’s Last’s frankly insane drumming which accompanies it that catches the ear most of all. It’s a great dying burst of energy but once it’s over, the band say their goodbyes and leave. Just like that. The crowd half-heartedly cry out for more but there aren’t enough of us to kick up a fuss. We just stand awkwardly, making idle chat until the house music comes on and we know it’s our time to leave. Maybe it’s the context that made it, but between the painful early wait and the final sheepish loitering, Purson themselves were… well, bloody great. For an hour, the few people who had stuck around had a genuinely great time amongst four lads and one lass who were having great times too, except they were doing it while rocking out like the funky maestros they are. That support must be kicking himself now.
Scribed by: Dave Bowes
Photos by: Alex Woodward (www.crimsonglow.co.uk)