It's a wind-up, wrapped in a shambles, within a catastrophe...
Not many gigs qualify as bona fide art statements, funded to the tune of $250,000 by a gallery and the arts council of New York. They don’t tend to come with an exhibition attached, featuring fake gold discs and a super-opulent short film that probably cost around the same again. Most gigs don’t have a live video link to the dressing room, where you can see the performers semi-naked, donning enormous wigs. And though plenty of shows may be mimed, the performers never draw attention to this fact by bitching about the costumes while the music – vocals and all – plays on.
Welcome to the world of Fischerspooner, lord high priests of electroclash. Signed to Ministry Of Sound for £1 million (and spending money like it’s going out of fashion), this show is the pinnacle of their career so far. Resulting from the combined efforts of 58 people (including one Punjab Deli, in charge of turbans), the duo’s show is Fellini’s Satyricon by way of the Legz Akimbo theatre group from The League Of Gentlemen.
The venue is a darkened art gallery; the staging is on three sides. Warren Fischer, the musical brains, is up in a gallery behind us, presumably putting the records on. After an announcement from a suited MC that “you are now the property of Fischerspooner”, the gallery doors are closed and ‘Invisible’ begins with Casey Spooner bounding onto the stage accompanied by two singers and three dancers.
By any standards, they look extraordinary (some would say ridiculous). Spooner is dressed in (among other things) a feathered turban, gold coat, blonde wig, pink cummerbund, and caked in enough war paint to alarm Marilyn Manson. The singers are wearing corsets, voluminous Victorian skirts, and wigs which look like the result of a genetic accident involving the New York Dolls and a polar bear.
The next hour involves entertainment that ranges promiscuously over the sublime, ridiculous, brilliant and plain awful – often within the space of a single song. After the boyband Bollywood staging of ‘Invisible’, Fischerspooner launch into their gorgeous cover of Wire’s ‘The 15th’, where more dancers queue on another part of the stage and are picked up and moved around by Peanuts, the MC, before Spooner dramatically swoons onstage. ‘Turn On’ sees him reappearing in white Levis and a Dior jacket, grabbing a camera from a photographer in the front row and riding around the crowd on an audience member’s shoulders. It’s the big budget luxury of a Kylie show, but with the rawness and spontaneity of punk.
‘LA Song’ has Spooner examining the crowd through opera glasses from a balcony at the opposite side of the venue, while cartoons by cult fashion illustrator Julie Verhoeven play out on three video screens. Then two glammed-up girls march on, one wielding a glass of champagne, introduced as Sarah H and Lady Y-vonne. An amazing slab of Primal Scream-style electroclash ensues, over which the girls rap distainfully about, yes, constipation. This thumperama is entitled ‘Megacolon’.
For ‘Sweetness’, Peanuts reappears onstage clad in a black bodystocking and proceeds to vomit gold paint all over the audience. In ‘Tone Poem’, he strips Spooner while the latter revolves on a chair. By the time ‘Sunrise’ comes around, Spooner looks totally unrecognisable, stripped of his wig and striking poses by a wind machine as fake rain drizzles the crowd. It’s quite incredible.
The closing ‘Emerge’ is stopped three times by Spooner because the audience isn’t singing along loud enough. After a mock-petulant strop offstage, the 12-strong troupe return to do the ‘Top Of The Pops’ performance of dreams, an amazing, sensurround interpretation of an anthem. It ends, fittingly, with exploding glitter cannons and yet another outrageous outfit ripped away to reveal Spooner resplendent in a diamante-studded jockstrap.
It’s fair to say that the Fischerspooner live experience isn’t exactly Oasis. It’s a wind-up, wrapped in a shambles, within a catastrophe, on top of a triumph. It’s one in both eyes for the keeping-it-real brigade and it’s completely and utterly unmissable. Roll over Damien Hirst, and tell Tracy Emin the news.