The absence of Antony won’t stop this party. Parlure Spiegeltent, Brighton (May 23)
The venue is an art deco marquee lined with fake velvet and mirrors. We’ve been instructed to “dress dragfabulous or heterogenous”, while in the neighbouring tent, a boisterous crowd are enjoying a performance by The Lady Boys Of Bangkok. This is possibly the gayest gig venue ever. But where did you expect Hercules And Love Affair to play their first official UK show? The Bull & Gate? Still, for a group whose key personnel are a gay man, a lesbian and a transsexual, there’s nothing screamingly outré about HALA. Pouting singer Nomi permits herself one costume change, but everyone else sports the band’s relatively sombre uniform: black vests emblazoned with HALA’s Greek statue-head logo and the word ‘Banjee’ (meaning a butch gay homeboy).
Tethered by smouldering, insistent beats and chewy analogue synth arpeggios, HALA’s live show is more LCD Soundsystem than Scissor Sisters. There’s no Antony Hegarty – he was never signed up to be a touring member – and Nomi’s generic house diva routine can’t quite compensate. But ‘Blind’ shines through as a brilliant song regardless, and the set is full of other deft surprises: Kim Ann’s sassy new-wave vocals, the mesmeric spiralling brass duels and a lithe reinvention of ’70s rock staple ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’. Proving that they’re more than just nerdy disco historians, new song ‘I’m Telling You’ is a thrillingly queasy, discordant blast, while the dreamy bubblegum of ‘Iris’ would be gratefully devoured by Gwen Stefani or Santogold. HALA’s supple musicality is stunning and it’s clear they’re only just exploring what they can do as a live band.
If they seem a tiny bit timid, it isn’t just because this intimate live show teases out the bristly melancholy buried in even some of their most euphoric songs; as mainman Andy Butler reveals afterwards, “The stage was shaking so much that when we danced hard, my headphones fell on the keyboard, making a horrible noise. But I saw people in the crowd turning their backs on us to dance, lost in their own little world – that tells me we’re doing the job.” Next time, Andy promises two furiously voguing dancers and a show that doesn’t have to end by 11pm as a result of sound restrictions. Man, woman or lady boy, the love affair is only just beginning.