Live Review: The Rakes

In The City It's Still Alright. The Lexington, London, Friday, February 27

Is an ‘intimate’ gig so-called because everyone here is squeezed in so tight that they’re inadvertently touching at least four strangers’ bits at any given time? On tonight’s evidence, we think so. Packed like unethical sardines in a north London pub top room, The Rakes’ faithful are rallied. They’ve been patiently waiting for a shot of new material from forthcoming album ‘Klang’ and an excuse to chuck their pints in the air while yelling about underpaid City jobs.

Initially, things aren’t quite how we remember them – bounding onstage with a floppy blond fringe that wouldn’t look out of place on an ’80s Simon Le Bon, front Rake Alan Donohoe has ditched the trainee-accountant-on-the-make look in favour of something a little more, um, ritzy. Wearing sinister red gloves which wrap around the mic like something from a punk-rock slasher flick, his bleached bangs bob away as he camply natters to the crowd like Paul O’Grady in panto. Tonight the four-piece – plus an extra guitarist beefing up their sound – thwack through a whopping 17-song set which airs the painfully good likes of ‘Strasbourg’, ‘22 Grand Job’, ‘Retreat’ and ‘We Danced Together’, all of which are as stupidly exciting as ever. But what of the new material? Did the crowd make their excuses and head en masse to the bar and bogs? Did they heck.

The gloves come off, quite literally, for the ‘Klang’ tracks, with Alan stripping his hands and slinking into stand-out newie ‘The Light From Your Mac’, a Buzzcocks shag-anthem with a bassline far too perky for this world. ‘The Woes Of The Working Woman’ is more indebted to Elton John being ransacked by a particularly randy David Bowie while ‘1989’ is Blur on turbo, with its nasty, dirty “la-la-la”s. Oh, and all of it’s played bloody loud. With a proper tour set for next month, if this warm-up gig proves anything it’s that April is set to be the hottest month of the year.

Leonie Cooper