Pop that plunders the past but is still totally now. Luminaire, London Thursday, March 12
Lady-powered, soul-driven pop with a beating heart and a fully functioning brain has been in need of a dependable saviour for some time now. Certainly, the likes of Little Boots and La Roux are currently injecting the pop landscape with a more-than healthy dose of shimmering emotional electro. But with Amy Winehouse still on the blink and Duffy a little too safe and cutesy to get anyone aside from middle-aged men with a fondness for northern soul compilations really excited, we currently have an opening for a woman with guts, a retro-styled racket and a sense of humour to shake a touch of spice across the charts.
Which brings us neatly to VV Brown: a one-woman soundclashing whirlwind who ducked out of her dreary career of R&B session singing in LA to do something a touch more fun, and much more VV Brown. Gracefully sashaying on to the small Luminaire stage, her sequinned piano-key dress already outshines the glittering mirror ball above her. She oozes old-fashioned glamour, her vampish painted nails exactly matching the shade of the pillar-box red tambourine that gets enthusiastically thwacked throughout her monster mashing signature song, ‘Crying Blood’. See, while her aforementioned contemporaries have been busying themselves by delving into the back catalogues of the bouffanted dames of the ’60s, VV takes us back a full decade further to the hop joints and dive bars of the ’50s.
So instead of heartbreak and back to black blues, we get the gum-smacking, circle skirt-spinning, eyebrow-raising stomp that turned staid young adults into volatile teenagers. Like all the best music, it’s aware of rather than totally in thrall to the past; part of a lineage rather than just a mere reminder of one.
With the perpetual grin of a children’s TV presenter, she scats and skiffles her way through the bubbling ‘LOVE’ and dumb fun of ‘Quick Fix’, feeding Wanda Jackson through The Cramps, The B-52’s and The Ting Tings to create the kind of insanity that makes perfect sense. There are moments when she veers too close to the kind of smooth jazz territory that’s best left only playing in elevators and the mind of Jools Holland, yet by serving up a wham-bam eight-song set including the just-penned ‘Shark In The Water’, she’s playing the pop game like a pro. Like most of VV Brown’s set tonight, it’s proof positive that when the past runs headlong into the present, it can be electrifying.