Monday, February 26, 2007

The Gossip

Beth Ditto might have been voted NME's Icon of 2006, but right now she and the rest of her band are SERIOUSLY PISSING ME OFF. It is a full 52 minutes since the last band left the stage. In that time The Gossip's roadies have successfully managed to set up one drum kit and a couple of guitars, tape down three set lists, to the point where even they haven't been able to find anything else to fanny about with for the last 30 minutes - and we all know how much roadies love to fanny about before a band gets onstage.

Then, now that 52 minutes have passed, the two members of the band who are not Beth appear and spend five minutes fartarsing with their gear before La Ditto deigns to appear, wearing a black bin liner over an electric blue catsuit. And the annoying thing about all this is that, despite yourself, you find yourself liking the damn woman. Yes, she might take heinous liberties with her audience (there's another 5 minute hiatus later when she decides to change out of said catsuit) and yes, her band are somewhat repetitive, having only two types of song, but she herself is rather sweet in a somewhat spiky sort of way. Which means that every time she pisses you off, she goes and does something endearing, like slagging off NME for making her Icon of 2006 yet not daring to put her on the cover, or simply wandering on stage with her top on inside out. It's like she knows she's annoying, but she defies you to do anything about it.

On the other hand, any band is only as good as the music they produce - ask any Libertines fan if they are fed up with the shambolic gigs and shite records and guess what answer you'll get? - and the fact is that The Gossip are far from impressive. The outstanding "Standing In The Way Of Control" apart, there really is nothing of note in this gig. Every other song sounds like SITWOC and the ones that don't sound like album plodder "Yr Wasted Heart". Ditto's voice is very one dimensional, all power with no depth or emotion, whilst the other band members - Blane and Hannah to their friends - are ordinary at best. Which is a shame, because if they could match their lead singer's talent for manipulating an audience, there would be much more to Gossip about.

Bonde Do Role

Where, on a Saturday night, are you going to find Whitney Houston's "Wanna Dance With Somebody" nestling side by side with "Summer Nights" from Grease and some obscure AC/DC? Other, that is, in my little sister's record collection. If you know the answer, either you have already seen the latest in the line of daft Brazilians, or my dad wants a word with you.

Bonde Do Role are a three piece rap act, featuring one skinny guy who looks like a refugee from Linkin Park, one tiny girl who clearly failed the audition for CSS but loves Lovefoxxx none the less, and the chubbiest DJ this side of Chris Moyles. Fortunately, they make light of these handicaps to bounce, bump and grind their way into the hearts of the Astoria audience. No-one seems to care that none of their songs are more than two minutes long. No-one cares that MC Pedro spends more time posing than he does rapping, or that DJ Gorky ate all the pies, or that Marina can't see a mic stand without trying to hump it; if the strange set of samples has the crowd confused at the start, mixing contemporary latino rhythms with 80s pop and a whole lot of rock, by the end they are lapping up every last note. With a wisdom that belies their years, Bonde Do Role exit a full 15 minutes before their scheduled finish time and leave the Astoria braying for more.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Holloways

There is something indefinably right about seeing the Holloways in a venue like Koko. The faded elegance of the place and the somewhat run down surroundings are a perfect mirror for the band's artfully constructed look of studied scruffiness. All of which is well appreciated by a crowd who are more than willing to forgoe the commercialism of Valentine's Day just to worship at the feet of Alfie & Co.

Before they can do this, they have to endure another utterly pointless appearance by the 1990s, who perform with all the vim and vigour of someone filling in their tax return. Even their few decent songs - basically, 'You're Supposed To Be My Friend' and 'Cult Status' - fail to raise the crowd from their torpor, whilst set closer 'Situation' just degenerates into five minutes of fretwanking (which seems like it goes on for a lifetime).

The contrast with the headliners could hardly be greater. From the opening 'So This Is Great Britain' to the climactic rendition of 'Fuck Ups' which closes the evening, we get enthusiasm, energy and an all-embracing joie de vivre that has the crowd jumping throughout. Indeed, rarely can a gig have had so many stage divers, or a security team so tolerant of them.

If the majority of the stage divers are male, it is probably because the females are transfixed by Alfie Jackson. Whilst only the laziest of writers would describe him as the group's frontman - the role is ill-defined in a band where any one of the three guitarists could be singing lead at any time - it is clear that he is the focus of most of the ladies' attention as he hops, skips and jumps his skinny torso around the stage. More importantly, if the band did not have some decent tunes then they simply wouldn't get this reaction, and despite having only one album's worth of material to choose from they certainly do not disappoint. Sounding like the illegitimate offspring of The Pogues and the Fratellis (but looking a damn sight better than you might expect such children to look) they jig their way through 'Two Left Feet', turn 'Fit For A Fortnight' into pure power pop, give us some cod ska with 'Generator' and throw in the punk thrash of old favourite 'London Town'. Older and more experienced the 1990s might be, but they still have a hell of a long way to go before they will put on a show this good.