Giant Drag @ The Hug & Pint, Glasgow, 28 Jan
After some time away from music, Annie Hardy is back with a newfound confidence as Giant Drag
Giant Drag are most well-known for their 2005 album Hearts and Unicorns, a grungy selection of morose and sultry songs. A farewell EP followed, before a comeback record in 2013. And now this tour, celebrating the resissue of Hearts and Unicorns. Giant Drag are really just the grunge manifestation of Annie Hardy. What has always defined them is her mischievous, dark look at the world, equal parts depravity and melancholy.
The set begins with anti-depression anthem Stuff to Live For. Hardy then tells us that our proximity to Stonehenge (this goes unchallenged from the crowd) has led to her having strange dreams and maybe entering into another dimension. She gives us a quick lesson on demons before striking up Devil Inside, which is about literally having devils inside you.
Annie Hardy truly lives in her own world and between songs we're treated to her stream-of-conscience meanderings, most of which leave the room slightly stunned and unsure how serious she is. She claims that all rhesus-negative people are psychically connected. She says she's not listened to music for eight years, at which point her favourite band was AWOLNATION. There are repeated references to demonic forces and other dimensions. She demands the crowd tells her their secrets or she won’t play another song. She muses on dogging.
The promotional material for the tour made clear that Hardy has gone through a series of personal tragedies over the last year and this tour represents the birth of 'Annie Hardy 3.0, a ballsy powerhouse of freestyling comedic mastery with the same vulnerability and tender heart that has always been her mainstay.' After a morose solo album under her own name, it feels like Giant Drag is an alter ego that Hardy is returning to. To go to a Giant Drag gig is to see someone who is comfortable in their own skin and startlingly confident about their own mind, rambling at length in front of strangers about blood types. The only moment of nervousness comes across during the solo acoustic interlude, when a Springsteen ‘medley’ is cut short to just one Springsteen song before she invites her drummer back.
What’s interesting is how much stronger the new material sounds than the old stuff. She fumbles the chords on This Isn't It, and struggles to pick out the lead line on old classic Kevin Is Gay. Meanwhile the new songs, appearing on a potential record in the summer are vibrant and confident, with finger-tapping laid over the sludgy chords of Giant Drag 1.0.
The rust is shaken off for the set closer, an evergreen cover of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game, which Hardy pretends she wrote after a sex game with Rod Stewart involving hogs. This serene, beautiful song given a depraved edge sums up the set perfectly, and before you know it Hardy is trotting off the stage to man her merch stall of homemade crucifixes.