CHRISTMAS came early for GLASVEGAS fans as the epic Inverness Ironworks gig dropped three heavy hints - in the shape of new songs - that the future’s bright, despite the below-capacity crowd.
Though encore finisher Daddy’s Gone from the first album still came as the night’s climax – a giant yelp of pain that gets grown men singing along like abandoned children – there were songs dotted throughout the set that were just as strong.
The surprise for some might be that all four of the songs played from supposedly weaker second album Euphoric /// Heartbreak\\\ more than deserved their place.
Lots Sometimes was turned into a monster affair with James turning the much-repeated "Lots sometimes" refrain into a mantra anchoring the melody while Swedish drummer Jonna Lofgren hammered into the pace, winding it up and up to give the song a new guise as a potential dancefloor killer.
But though the set broke down to include seven songs from the 2008 debut album, it was the way the new songs fitted in yet moved the band’s story along, that was almost the night’s most exciting feature.
Often, previous Glasvegas gigs (Inverness Raigmore, Forres East Grange Loft) have disappointed when the sound became blurred by volume overload, making it painful to listen and frustrating to try and make out the vocals.
It happened a couple of times on Wednesday – tragically in second number, the blissful The World Is Yours. And there was a little bit of badness returning in Please Come Back Home.
But most of the time, the voice couldn’t have been clearer – and that’s important.
James Allan’s commited, full-on emotion can turn songs into mini-operas that suck you in like vortexes where nothing else exists. Just for that few minutes.
Of course sometimes he sings flat. Sometimes you want to kill the soundman who makes the overall volume pointlessly bombastic.
But however weird James’ signature gulping bellow and painful whoop, he doesn’t really sound like anyone else.
And he goes for the performance with a naked honesty it can take a lifetime for some singers to find.
Abandoning the once essential dark glasses, on Wednesday he looked out into the crowd without flinching.
Before launching into third song It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry, he admitted to the crowd: "It feel like you’re too far away. Shall I bring the stage forward?"
He grinned, before humbly thanking us for coming to see the band.
In his songs, James has always had the gift of the common touch that he’s made his own territory on songs such as Geraldine, Daddy’s Gone, Go Square Go (with its cleverly incorporated number one Scottish chant ‘Here we, here we, here we f***ing go!’) and Cruel Moon.
And it cuts across the totally rock star appearance and effortless cool of the four-piece, making them something more unexpected than Scotland’s number one premier wannabe rock gods. Though they’re on the list ...
Undercutting the effortlessly cool tag, though, guitarist Rab Allan couldn’t resist remarking on James fumbling efforts to hoist on his guitar before new song If.
"Every night he struggles to get his guitar on!" moaned Rab.
"He’s only happy cos Celtic won," the guitarist revealed to mixed cheers and boos.
It explained the set’s later start, though we’d quite happily enjoyed the wait thanks to some fine dark indie from Kobi and the totally mesmerising manic fury of The Amazing Snakeheads (or as James said: "I thought that was quite a cool name but they should change it to Unbelievably Incredible F***ing Amazing Snakeheads!").
But Glasvegas are a pretty impressive team too. Newest member of the band, drummer Jonna is now a crucial visual focus, powering the music along.
Somehow her dark shades looked anything but daft as she whumped the living daylights out of the drums, bassist Paul Donoghue’s the skinny rampaging focus to Rab Allan’s meatier, hyperactive guitar machine on the other side of the stage.
Getting his own back on Rab before Ice Cream Van, James watched his cousin struggle to get the keyboards ready and said sarcastically: "Tell me when I can start singing!"
But the trio of new songs are deadly serious. Tapping into the personal, all three speak of revenge, fury and hatred. If tries to point out that without evil, there wouldn’t be good.
All I Want Is My Baby takes Jessie J’s familiar line "It’s all about the money, money money" and leaves you in no doubt that’s a dangerous thing – and that the climax is forecful enough to leave James breathless.
But it was encore opener I’d Rather Be Dead Than Be With You that took the band to a new level. James Allan’s voice goes places it’s never been before, stronger, scarier, with lyrics aggressively ridiculing the person all his anger’s directed at. But the subtlety’s in the sense of regret his voice brings to the second half of a line that begins as a furious, word-spitting tirade of hatred.
"That’s the first time I’ve played that right," Rab told the crowd at the end.
But it was hard to imagine it being any more powerful.
And after Daddy’s Gone, the singalong night-closer, it was the promise of that new song - and 2013’s new album on the band’s own Go Wow label l- that lit up the winter’s night.