Review: The Imagineers, at Sneaky Pete’s

Like a film sequel, The Imagineers have returned after a four-year gap, with a new cast around enigmatic frontman Stevie Young.

Press adulation and a starring role on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson in 2012 had the band on the brink of a big breakthrough. However, rather than fulfilling their promise, and to the dismay of a growing fan base, 2013 saw the break up of the band.

Young’s subsequent sojourn through Europe inspired the songs that would lead to the reformation of The Imagineers and a debut album, Utopian Dreams, due to be released soon.

With Sneaky Pete’s hosting the band’s first gig for four years as part of Independent Venue Week, there is a real sense of anticipation in the air.

First to whet the audience’s appetite is Glasgow singer-songwriter Barrie James O’Neill.  For tonight, the ex-lead singer of Kassidy, best known for his collaborations with Lana Del Rey (he’s also her ex-boyfriend), brings his one-man-and-his-guitar (and piano) act.

Performing as Nightmare Boy, he kicks off with Mad Man, its dark melancholy enhanced by the solitude of the piercing guitar. The set goes down well and the brooding, melodic Mary proves a crowd-pleaser. A funky sounding ‘work in progress’ gets an airing and indicates there is plenty more to come from O’Neill.

Future Get Down, an electronic collective from Edinburgh centred around the duo of Oliver Klass and Ally Dennis, have the second support slot.

It’s hard to believe this is the band’s first gig as they captivate the crowd from the start.

Pulsating deep bass rhythms fill the venue as strobe lighting flashes through the dry ice.

Their only release to date, Dreamkillers, follows the opening number. Its throbbing base and drum beat reverberate through the floor to cheers from the crowd.

With no introductions, and only the aforementioned single available online, it is difficult to namecheck any songs. It hardly matters on the night – the sound is high-speed Krautrock and its hypnotic effect transfixes the audience and pulls them towards the front of the stage where they give the band a rapturous reception.

With Sneakys now buzzing, headline act The Imagineers take the stage to face an expectant crowd.

With an “It’s good to be back” from Young, the band launch straight into one from the forthcoming album, If I See You Again. Its infectious melody is an early indication of the quality to come.

No playing safe here as the next number also gets a first airing – the laid-back summer breeze of Californians Drive All Day. The intent is clear, to showcase the debut album and not relive past glories. The crowd respond well, bouncing along as if they had been hit with old favourites.

The band’s enthusiasm for being back on stage infects every tune. When they do play the likes of Imagineers and Spanish Sands, the songs sound surprisingly fresh, as if they were being played for the first time.

There is a hint of The Last Shadow Puppets on the wonderful Utopian Dreams, and perhaps The Growlers on the swirling guitars of Cosmic Carsick – but the influences never dominate.

This is the unique sound of The Imagineers, and tonight has been a triumphant return.

The debut album is due out on May 2 and is available for pre-order now. On this evidence, it will be the sound of the summer – and you can expect to see this album featured on any ‘Best Of’ list for 2017.

Words: Alan Hotchkiss

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