The Hundred in the Hands
Fortunately, due to the fact I’m in a brilliant and satisfying relationship, I can now watch beautiful female singers without my judgement being clouded by irritating things like ‘romance’. I guess the polite way to say it might be to say that she had the majority of men present held in a trance like attention, women not so. From the off, this made the guitarist’s aggression seem justifiably protective.
I couldn’t help but think about an indie Ike and Tina Turner, that we were watching some kind of muted, staged domestic abuse. His brutal, powerful sound overwhelming her delicate and timid vocals, his looming figure in front of stacks of amps creating a wall of distortion, contrasted by her skinny microphone stand, which she hid behind when not singing. Her voice seemed to be the prevailing hope for the relationship, we were sucked in by a sense of triumph when she was heard, particularly last two tracks:
Young Aren’t Young has a lovable ‘Streets of Rage’ style cityscape soundtrack, and on Commotion her full emotion was unleashed temporarily, her desperation soon destroyed by his axe at the end, his frantic guitar work made seemingly endless and unrelenting by computerized percussion. It was an impressive and dramatic contrast, and a deep-delving sound for only two performers. They clearly have plenty more to offer.
Things started quite conventionally; drummer, singer, guitar, bass and some peripherals. They kind of looked like Friendly Fires in five years, or like they had retired from teaching early to follow their dreams. First impressions aside, the whole show would soon lead me to a possibly life changing equation, which will be revealed at the end of this review.
The front man made it his mission to as quickly as possible cement himself as a statue of ridicule. This momentarily relaxed everyone, unsure how seriously to take him. Soon his metaphorical balls came out and we realised ours weren’t as big; he physically invaded the crowd; hugging people, gyrating her, hi-5-ing him. When he funk-danced out of a fire exit and reappeared at the back of the venue it loosened our hold on the norm. Fear or nerves or mockery turned to eye-widening respect. Backed by throbbing basslines and a snare/clap rhythm so crisp it sounded like everyone in the room was in-time, I found my reviewing intellect black out. Content was beautifully blurred; the singer using words as percussion in a New York tribute to what rappers refer to as ‘flow’. The peripherals pulled saxophones from the shadows, cowbells from the corners and layered every track with increasing complexity, while still dragging thrusting movement from our hips.
The key to this vibe seemed to be possibly the most stable percussion performance I’ve seen; credit to the drummer who embodied effective subtlety. Either !!! are the most rehearsed band ever, with airtight seven-cymbal grabbing song endings, or it luckily all came together ‘on the night’ like a triumphant Judd Apatow remake of The Full Monty. By which I mean they seemed to be, at times, packaged like a joke. (The arrogance of the lead singer was Will Ferrell-like, the audacity and enthusiasm of his performance carefully balanced his likeability) Only later was their well meaning message of ‘taking fun seriously’ revealed.
The whole time I was wondering if this is what The Happy Mondays would possibly sound like if they had loosened their narcotic stranglehold, but this was squashed when, with the encore, they aptly climaxed with Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘Relax’. The front man’s sweat, as he shook his hair like a mutt, might have only splashed the front rows, but it’s regretfully refreshing quality was felt all over The Cockpit. Towards the end, while I was catching my breath, my supposed ‘intelligence’ spiked through my floods of feelings with this equation:
Arrogance + Hard Work = FUNK
Thanks so much, ‘!!!’. (that was some confusing punctuation!)