ICONIC SUPERGROUP 'BNQT' WHICH FEATURES SCOTLAND'S VERY OWN 'ALEX KAPRANOS' FROM FRANZ FERDINAND AND 'FRAN HEALY' FROM TRAVIS BRING THEIR TOUR TO GLASGOW'S ORAN MOR
A supergroup? In 2017? Perhaps in the digital age, where anyone can record an album in their bedroom and become an overnight sensation -or fad- through online marketing and distribution, the idea that a collective of successful recording artists could come together to create an album doesn't seem that far-fetched. When bands do collaborations these days though it usually involves a guest vocalist or two, maybe a remix.
The idea of a supergroup seems rather old-fashioned, from a time when rock stars were even bigger than their egos and in the last decade or so few bands have attained the level of stardom to even qualify for such a title. BNQT (pronouced "banquet") probably border on cult supergroup status, consisting of 5 lead vocalists and what is essentially a very well established house band. Despite touting themselves as a "poor man's Traveling Wilburys" the band which features members of Grandaddy, Franz Ferdinand, Travis, Band of Horses and Midlake have produced an album well worth their investment. Volume 1 is a fine collection of songs reflecting the diverse influences of its respective contributors while sounding cohesive enough to be translated into a live setting by one single band.
The possibilities for musical collaboration on record are nearly unlimited by geography but the challenge - and real fun - for BNQT would always be to take these songs on the road. Pulling artists together from across continents to performs songs that have never been played live before is quite an achievement in scheduling and with the exception of Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses) everyone in the band made it to the Glasgow show. Originally announced for the Old Fruitmarket, the gig was moved to Oran Mor a few weeks out, and even on the night tickets were still available.
There's something strange about the way BNQT have grown their following; while the album clearly advertises the fact it is this supergroup collaboration by naming all the contributors, the bands themselves have not been cross-promoting, almost as if the project doesn't exist. In this day and age it's customary to trade on your name, to bandwagon, to associate yourself with your brand. BNQT seem to be starting from scratch, with a little over 6000 Facebook followers. It doesn't make sense that a band comprising such a well known line-up could fail to sell out a 500 capacity venue in what should be considered a second hometown. Ultimately, for the fans who did show up none of that matters.
Opening the show is the talented singer-songwriter Chris Stills. On the subject of artists not trading on their names yes, he is the son of folk rock legend and original supergroup member Stephen Stills. He is also an accomplished musician in his own right, two solo albums to the good and a new single This Summer Love released recently ahead of a new album due in 2018.
His short set of acoustic bluesy rock jams is well received by the intimate crowd, building energy from the mellow opening new single and follow up Just Like The Rain. He chats casually between songs and there's a feeling that the room is moving to the engaged side of indifference. After inviting the crowd to "sing along in the choruses" he launches into an extended rock rendition of Eleanor Rigby before closing out his set with 100 Year Thing, receiving much more than polite applause.
When BNQT take to the stage at 9pm there's a crowd gathered to about half fill the room. There's a buzz. Those who know, know. The set opens with the same drive as the album, with Eric Pulido's (Midlake) lead single Restart, before he passes frontman duties to Grandaddy's Jason Lytle to lead on 100 Million Miles, followed up by Fran Healy's Mind of a Man.
The audience are loving it instantly and although it's apparent there are fans of each of the bands represented here, everyone has come to enjoy the songs. It's probably just as well because the BNQT songs prove to be the strongest performances of the night. Pulido mentions the fact they don't have enough material to fill a whole set, asking if it would be alright for them to play some songs from their catalogues.
The crowd cheers and they slip into a rendition of Grandaddy's Hewletts Daughter. Pulido immediately seeks affirmation from Lytle, before passing microphone duties to Fran Healy.
The introduction of Travis' anthem Why Does It Always Rain On Me is one of the few excuses to utilise Midlake's Jesse Chandler on flute; for most of the set he's contributing keys and vocals. It's at about this point that the real context of the gig sinks in, as the song falls about as flat as it's ever sounded. One punter observed "It's a bit like a wedding band with these covers" and the realisation comes home, that this is a band apart from its components. While they may be equal or greater than the sum of their parts when it comes to playing BNQT songs, or even Midlake songs which fare quite well in the set, they as frontmen are not everything in their own music.
Still, it's a lot of fun and that is the feeling that runs throughout the performance; BNQT is a group of songwriters and musicians having fun creating and working together. At intervals throughout the night each member takes an opportunity to thank their bandmates for allowing them to be part of the experience and each time compliments are delivered with genuine humility, and met with heartfelt gratitude by both the band and the audience. Chris Stills even joins the band mid-set to flesh out the sound for his own performance and is well received amid the flow of face-melting harmonies and bodacious guitar solos from Joey McLellan.
After playing though every song on Volume 1 the set closes out with a run of 4 covers including Sing, Head Home, AM180 and an exuberant singalong with Alex Kapranos to a song he introduces as a surprise choice of cover, "the b-side to the 4th single on our last album" which of course turns out to be Franz Ferdinand's mega hit Take Me Out. They leave the stage with the crowd demanding more and return to oblige with a two song encore, this time another 2 covers and true covers, to honour their own rockstar influences; Tom Petty's Won't Back Down and The Beatles Revolution.
Even after all that it's hard to explain what this so-called supergroup is, beyond a bewildering musical exercise, but it's good. It's very good. May we see their like again.
BNQT'S REMAINING TOUR DATES:
Thurs November 2nd 2017: DUBLIN The Button Factory
Sat November 4th 2017: THE HAGUE Crossing Border Festival 2017
Sun November 5th 2017: MAASTRICHT Words on Fire Festival 2017