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The way in which A Sunny Day in Glasgow recorded their latest album, Sea When Absent, made seeing them perform a live show all the more intriguing. The band’s current incarnation — held together by just one original member, Ben Daniels — consists of six members scattered across the globe, forcing them to record the album via email without, at any point in the process, being in the same room together. While this method worked out to glorious effect on the record — it’s a densely textured record bursting with clattering percussion and joyful melodies — I was skeptical of how it might play out live.
A little after 11 p.m. on Saturday night, the band opened their sold-out set at Baby’s All Right, bursting in with the biggest number from the album, “In Love With Useless.” Vocalist Jen Goma (who moonlights in People Get Ready and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart) bounced up and down, seemingly drawing all her energy to guide the song through its twists and turns, on a path leading to a clarifying harmony with the more restrained vocals of Annie Frederickson. Though the band is a sixpiece, it was the two women at the front who commanded much of the attention. Goma, the only one unfettered by an instrument, made for a very physical presence, and seemed to be using her entire body to conjure the big notes. Frederickson, for her part, would widen her eyes in anticipation of the soaring harmonies they reached for, the two women sharing a grin when they made it.
The band zipped through an hour-long set that was largely made up of tracks from the new album. Live, the multiple layers of the songs, perhaps inevitably, didn’t mesh quite as thoroughly as on record: the timing felt off on a few occasions, and the the two singers’ harmonies didn’t always gel perfectly. Still, the band remained confident throughout, their energy and enthusiasm never flagging, and shaking off minor mishaps such as a broken guitar strap and averting a set list mixup. True to their name, their performance was of almost child-like joy — emphasized by their use of a kazoo, maracas, a tambourine, and hand claps — and delightful exuberance. You get the feeling this band’s music could paint even the darkest and grimmest of Glasgow days in bright technicolor.