For many years, The Xcerts have been considered the underdog, playing second fiddle to their melodic rock contemporaries. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. As frontman Murray Macleod put it himself in a recent interview, “I think a lot of people enjoy our music but think of us as the little brother of Brand New or Biffy Clyro.” With the release of their third album There Is Only You last month, that all looks set to change, with the band eschewing the abrasive off-kilter quirkiness of their second LP Scatterbrain and instead embracing huge pop hooks and focusing their energies on melodies that tapeworm their way into your brain, all the while writing songs about grief, anxiety and loss.
There’s a confidence to The Xcerts tonight, and right off the bat they knock out three tunes from There Is Only You that sound as strong, if not stronger, than their previous material. The audience here have certainly taken to the new material well, belting out the words to the likes of Live Like This and Kids on Drugs as if they’ve been a part of their MP3 collections for years. Whilst these songs may come to haunt the band in the future, they clearly love playing them right now and are visibly awestruck by the response they receive.
Older material such as Do You Feel Safe? and an absolutely sublime rendition of Carnival Time receive a rapturous response from those at the front although there is a constant drunken hubbub towards the back of the crowd that does tend to derail the gentler moments of the set. As beautiful as it is, maybe this venue and this audience is not the most suited to an off-mic acoustic rendition of Aberdeen 1987.
This does, however, feel like the beginning of something truly special for The Xcerts, but it is only the beginning. It already feels as if they’ve outgrown the venues they’re currently playing but the band can afford to get even bigger with their ambitions and grow into the almighty melodic rock behemoth that they’ve been hinting at since their inception. Huge moments that are made for a live environment, such as the anthemic and achingly beautiful title track from There Is Only You, are missing tonight. It’s trite to bemoan songs a band doesn’t play but when the missing song is as life-affirming and awe-inspiring as that one, you can’t help but feel maybe the band are hiding away from their true potential.
This, however, is a minor blot on what rock historians will hopefully look back on as Phase 2 of the bands career, the interminable ascent of The Xcerts. If they continue to grow and play shows like this, they won’t be any band’s little brother for long.