Babes In Toyland: London Charing Cross Mean Fiddler

The Babes' swansong performance?

All these years down the line, Kat Bjelland’s biggest influence remains Linda Blair in ‘The Exorcist’. Courtney Love, her old sparring partner, may have had all the makeovers and singing lessons Hollywood can offer, but Bjelland has stayed unnervingly true to her calling.

With motherhood and a swampier new group, Katastrophy Wife, to distract her, Bjelland’s chosen to finish off Babes In Toyland. On this farewell tour, however, the elements that made the Babes so dynamic a decade ago – tribal drums, massive riffs, truly alarming vocals – are all still there. It’s an

evening of grunge nostalgia, as Bjelland, faithful drummer Lori Barbero and bassist Jessie Farmer crank out scabrous garage punk to put young pretenders like Kittie to shame. The singer’s abandoned the peroxide and ripped nighties that were her trademark (before they were Courtney’s, incidentally) but, as she screeches and hollers malicious fairytales like ‘Handsome & Gretel’ and the

superb ‘Sweet 69’, it’s plain nothing else has changed.

Watching them, you can’t help longing for a similar bunch of women to disrupt the circle-jerking boy’s club of nu-metal in the same way Babes crashed the grunge party. In the gents’ toilets, an old fan announces, “I’m gonna go start a fight with the smallest person I see.” Not quite Bjelland’s message, perhaps, but at least she’s still inspiring the psychotic and the infantile right to the very end.

John Mulvey