@ Leeds Met
Wow! This is a big place compared to when I saw them last at the Faversham in Leeds. Then you could barely see the top of Beth Ditto’s head, here you can see the whole mu-mu outfit. She announces as she walks on stage, “I’ve lost my luggage so I’ve got a black dress with white shoes”. As opera diva Jessye Norman once quipped, “honey this ain’t a dress, it’s two dresses”.
She’s a little bundle of sex appeal through moves and personality and she works the crowd with three disco tunes. Next to her the bassist pounds and poses, working out strange lines and throwing down abstruse noises. He swaps to guitar and continues with more of the same. Behind are the pounding drums. And that’s it. Just three people trying to fill the space with passion. The charisma doesn’t stretch all the way to the back of the hall and a sad number of the idly curious seem more interested in drinking than dancing. There is a whole lot of facing forward going on and not many feeling the urge to move. Maybe Beth’s magic has a perimeter. For the fourth song they switch to a blues with singing along encouraged. The statacco lighting tries to conjure up the effect of a smaller place as it mimics the choppy waves of guitar and drums. Beth ducks her head as she works her arms, huddling into herself like a ball of hedgehog. She rolls herself forward like she’s doing little punches.
Still, they are a garage band and I’ve yet to see a garage band, however good, work a room this size without losing the essential grunginess of the origins. In the Faversham they had transcended the venue to create their own space of noise and personality and beats and noise. Here they put on a show. They do manage to piss on Nu-Rave and that pleases me. Without a drum machine they manage to funk up a dance groove between them that compels and Beth’s howl rides the spaces between the guitar chops. This is punk you can dance to. I’m intrigued to see there is no set-list and wonder what that signifies. But, a short time later the show is almost over and Beth basks in the applause. “Yeah”, she says, “you’re right – lesbians DO rock!”