Manchester Hop & Grape
“Most of the music you will hear tonight,” booms a wry Northern voice from the twilight zone, a Geordie Rod Serling introducing a tale of mystery, suspense, confusion and suggestive heckling, “is from the future…” As, it would appear, are the coats.
Red, white and black, in fur, pad and mac they hover onstage and reveal three 21st century Beverley Sisters hidden within their folds. Mechanically they spread their arms in a robotic mocking of a dance routine gleaned from rotting footage of Stars In Their Eyes. They open their mouths in perfect motorised synchronicity and an a cappella rendition of that old classic ‘Come Out 2Nite’ emanates from somewhere behind their heads.
And so we find ourselves in mid-’98 at the point where earth-shattering pop goddesses Kenickie find themselves at that crucial Difficult Second Album stage. The point where they stop being the ramalama party blitz scene in Grease and find themselves stranded at the drive-in. The point where Johnny X ditches his drums and picks up a guitar. The point where Emmy-Kate Montrose, Marie Du Santiago and Lauren Laverne fling aside their instruments and blossom into a very pissed yet utterly compulsive North-eastern Cleopatra. Only with better jokes.
“Are you making reference to my nipples?” Marie scolds the front row, and they surely are. “It’s a bit like learning French at school,” she continues, unbowled. “You don’t know whether to use a French accent or not, just like you lot don’t know when to dance. But it’s OK, go for it. It’s dark where you are.” We are faced tonight with the all-new, six-piece, comedown-friendly, semi-reflective Kenickie beast. A Kenickie willing to dust off Emmy-Kate’s old school trumpet for the melancholy pop blast of ‘The 411’. A Kenickie unafraid to let it all go ‘a bit Jewel’ on the seethingly catty acoustic ballad ’60s Bitch’. A Kenickie who still flaunt and preen through a rampant ‘In Your Car’ but find their mid-song attempt to slow it all down in ultra-cool ‘Leader Of The Pack’ stylee thwarted when the moshpit howls the lyrics back at her through the poignant pauses.
Tonight’s punters, you see, haven’t quite caught up yet. They’re not interested in the camp-fire confessional that Kenickie’s new material invites them along to. Never mind, they’ll chill eventually. In the meantime they’re guided into the slip-roads with frivolous dizzgo anthems like ‘Magnatron’ and ‘Stay In The Sun’ and a flood of bloopy space noises that sounds like the end-of-show party for Contact. The encore? An acoustic solo spot from Marie and ‘Come Out 2Nite’ in all its old-skool, pigtail-tugging glory. A glowing invitation to Kenickie’s latest blow-out. A pyjama party where the punch is laced with spite. Bring your own feathers and hemlock.