@ Liquidroom Ebisu (8th Feb. '10)
Hot & Bothered : The Gossip work up a sweat
Anyone familiar with Beth Ditto's performance style knows what to expect at a Gossip show: sweat towels, blistering vocals and banter with the crowd that could be described as either intimate or crass, depending on who to talk to. You wouldn't, however, expect pitch-perfect renditions of Disney musical numbers. Yet there they were, between the layers of Gossip's grubby soul-punk past and "fierce" glitter-pop present. Serves us right for expectations, I guess.
Or should we have seen it coming? Ditto frequently festoons live performances with stray strands of singalong 80's pop, if not for the sake of irony or time-filler while tuning a guitar than for straight-up nostalgia: her cover of Wham!'s "Careless Whisper" made its way around the blogosphere long before it was placed on the live album, and her rendition of Madonna's "Get into the Groove" at Fujirock in 2007 elicited more squeals of approval than hipster snickering. But last Monday, early into the Gossip's blistering set at Liquid Room, Ditto broke into the soaring chorus of Aladdin's "A Whole New World," holding each note long enough for the crowd's initial laughter to wear off, leaving everyone to listen in stunned silence. Then once the crowd was stilled, she spun into her own interpretation of The Little Mermaid's "Under the Sea," adding a dash of the perverse to the first verse:
"Under the SEA! Down where it's wetter, THAT's where it's better....that's what SHE said...."
The soul of a punk, the voice of a diva, the timing of a stand-up comic. Three cheers for the three faces of Beth Ditto.
Now, as you can probably tell by that overlong intro and analysis of Ditto's baladeering, this review (and this reviewer) will spend the largest share of coverage on the Gossip's frontwoman. Sure, guitarist Nathan Paine is more than competent; his angular shards of distortion adding texture and propulsion to each track. The 80's electro-syths under his control also add a new sheen the their finger-smudged veneer. And sure, drummer Hannah Billie kept this sweaty mess of a band contained with a clean and measured performance. But hey, who the hell is going to watch THEM when a force of nature like Beth Ditto is on stage? Strutting out with a black bob haircut and what appeared to be a custom-made Jeremy Scott dress (I was told by a fashion editor friend that they do NOT make them in her size), Ditto bounced, burped and wailed like a surly Betty Boop in a fun-house mirror.
"How do you say 'gay' in Japanese?" she asked the crowd coyly. When they shouted back that it's basically the same word, she asked, "Ok then, how do you say 'faggot?' Because this next song is for all the faggots out there." Indeed, it seems that most Gossip songs are dedicated to same-gender romance and heartbreak, and from the looks of crowd reactions, this audience is the figurative choir to whom she preaches: I haven't seen this subset of the Tokyo expat community dominate a rock show since Scissor Sisters played here years ago. Ditto is an activist in her own way, mixing in a message of tolerance in between toilet humor. This may also explain her choice of Wham!, Madonna and some of the other snippets of pop that she peppers Gossip sets with, including the growls of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" during "Listen Up."
Growling a bit themselves, Gossip fans are not a passive bunch - they shout Ditto's name and sing along to nearly every song, including the Bikini Kill cover and the more disco-leaning work of the latest album, Music for Men. But the crowd reactions of the encore took the cake. I knew that they might sing Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do With It?" since I'd heard it on podcast last year. This gave me a chance to watch the look of recognition-to-elation on faces in the crowd. By the time the chorus rolled around, everyone in the place was singing at top volume, right up to the opening riffs of their hit, "Standing in the Way of Control," began to hammer the crowd out of their nostalgic stupor. Even here, Ditto vocally re-engineered the encore number into a mashup of sorts, incorporating the well-worn grunge anthem, "Smells Like Teen Spirit." It worked.
Instead of a quick exit after the ender, Ditto went straight from the stage and into the crowd, hugging anyone that could get close enough to her. I approached, but a few sharp elbows to the ribs made me realize that others wanted it WAY more than me. Two British model-types in their twenties stood by me trembling. "I hugged Beth Ditto," one said to the other. Both girls grinned at each other, and then kissed deeply. A whole new world, indeed.
|mag files : The Gossip
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