Modern Baseball @ SWG3, Glasgow, 16 Feb
American emo crew Modern Baseball know how to play a crowd. Guitarist Jake Ewald assures us within minutes of their set starting that Glasgow is “always their favourite city to play other than Philadelphia.” A few tracks later he looks positively flummoxed by a “here we fucking go” chant filling the venue.
Regardless, The Skinny are willing to trust they were being genuine – after all, unbridled sincerity is a key part of the band’s appeal. They inform us early on that frontman Brendan Lukens sadly isn’t performing tonight due to illness. It hardly seems to matter on tracks like Coals and The Weekend as the young audience shriek back every word as if it’s the most cathartic thing they’ve ever heard.
It’s easy to see why the band resonate with this demographic. Each song follows the same pattern: a stirring chord progression and driving mid-tempo groove accompanied by sentimental lyrics. Whereas their Midwest heroes (such as the similarly named American Football) are renowned for their rhythmic interplay, Modern Baseball go for the gut from the outset. It’s a comforting sound, and one that gets repetitive very quickly. There are more dynamic moments, especially during tracks like Breathing In Stereo from new album Holy Ghost, but they’re brief and underdeveloped.
In fairness, the band seem aware of their limitations and try to mix things up by inviting guests up on stage. It gets confusing: Chris from The Superweaks sings a song, then Chrissy from Thin Lips does a number, then she’s joined by a second drummer, and by the penultimate track Your Graduation there are about nine people on stage. They also try their hand at a couple of covers, although their Weakerthans impression proves more convincing than their Killers send-up.
Still, while they can sound a little derivative in places, Modern Baseball definitely do their utmost to keep a show engaging. Many bands would likely cancel a tour if their lead vocalist was unavailable, but the Philadelphia four-piece’s chemistry as a band is enough to see them through. Could they bring more personality to the table? Perhaps, and it's difficult to overstate how vital Lukens is to the band's sound, but it’s difficult to knock any band that performs with this much passion.