Scissor Sisters, Aloe Blacc and Ed Sheeran do their thing...
For the third year in a row, I have proven that I am bad at Arthur's Day. In 2009, I foolishly passed up the chance to see Tom Jones live at the Brazen Head. In 2010, I missed the countdown and this year, against the advice of everyone I know, I’m entering into Arthur's Day shockingly Guinness-less.
It's not at all extraordinary for me to enjoy a gig sans libation, but in the case of Arthur's Day, where a pint of the black stuff is a mascot, accessory, trophy and rite of passage all in one, it's proving quite the challenge.
"You wouldn't spurn turkey at Christmas," I tell myself, pondering the onstage presence of a ginger Rastafarian (more on that later), but luckily, help is just a fiery redhead and a pleather shirt away.
If anyone can get you into the party mood it's Scissor Sisters. Kicking off with the triumphant 'Laura' and practically trembling with energy, the merry fivesome are flawlessly tight and boundlessly animated. The fact that this year's Arthur's Day has coincided with the band's ten-year anniversary might have something to do with it, but the all-shrieking, all-grinding Scissters are in extremely high spirits tonight. Determined to stop the crowd from nipping out to the loo, they knock out hit after hit, from dirty country jam 'Take Your Mama' to feelgood anthem 'I Don't Feel Like Dancin’’ to Sister Sledge-aping disco number 'Any Which Way'. Cartoonish glambot Ana Matronic is instantly adorable and, while I must stop short of dubbing Jake Shears the ultimate frontman, it's purely because his high energy dance breaks make him more gigolo than band leader. Throw in another couple of bombastic hits and a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments, and this five-piece dynamo are the undoubted hit of the night.
While Scissor Sisters close out the night in typically flamboyant fashion, the task of opening the show lies with smooth operator Aloe Blacc. Name dropping James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Al Green, the gifted Mr. Blacc evokes a little bit of all four; Brown's moves, Wonder's romantic side (see the schmaltzy, but sublime 'You Make Me Smile'), Gaye's cheesecake grin and Green's killer vocal are all present and accounted for. On the setlist this evening are the vintage-sounding 'Good Things', a reggae-infused version of his colossal hit 'I Need A Dollar' and an unlikely cover of The Velvet Underground's 'Femme Fatale'. It's a tough job carrying the soul man torch, but Mr. Blacc does it beautifully.
Next up is Florrie, a 22 year-old model, drummer, guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, producer and despite what her name might suggest not a character from Downton Abbey. Ah, Florrie. Beautiful, gawky, deer-in-the-headlights Florrie. Her CV alone confirms that she's a hugely capable musician and two buzz-worthy EPs assure us that her fluttery disco pop is destined for chart success, but sadly, the live show is far from perfect. Her vocals are regularly engulfed by the mix, and her frontwomanly vivacity is notably absent. Florrie is actually a very good drummer – we get to see a reasonable chunk of her skin-pounding talents tonight – but when everyone from Ellie to Lykke to Florence is accompanied at the mike by a crash and a snare these days, her set-up hardly seems original.
With their debut album peaking at No. 96 in the UK charts, I'm not expecting a whole lot from self-proclaimed symphonic rockers Wolfgang, but to my surprise, there's plenty to like about these cocky young Brits. Clearly taking cues from Vegas pop giants The Killers, there's nothing spectacular about these guys on record, but their 20-minute Arthur's Day set is packed with enough sparkling melodies and flashy displays of showmanship courtesy of vocalist Max McElligott to keep the Olympia massive enthralled.
Freckle-faced enigma Ed Sheeran is next, and he's clearly brought a couple of hundred fans with him - soulful folk tunes and a penchant for a cutesy lyric have already made this 20-year-old Brit (Irish parents are to blame for his unruly mop of red hair) a firm favourite with the dreamy-eyed schoolgirl demographic. He's certainly a more achievable breed of pin-up than we're used to; the thinking girl's Justin Bieber, if you will. Tracks performed with only his trusty guitar for company are instantly forgettable, but some crafty looping soon changes things up nicely. Just as I'm about to fall victim to Sheeran's boy-next-door charms, the set switches again. 'You Need Me' is injected with a few lines from 50 Cent's 'In Da Club' and an original rap about smoking weed, delivered in a mock Jamaican accent. Needless to say, this is where the talented rapscallion loses me.
As floods of punters pile out of the Dame St. venue, there's one last toast to be made. A male audience member holds a pair of Dorothy-style glittered red heels aloft in the air, as if to cheers Scissor Sisters for closing the show with such a resounding wallop. The band already have one milestone anniversary down, we'll all be hoping they make it to their Ruby.
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