It was the David Bowie who famously said: “I’m an instant star, just add water and stir”. Looking at Måneskin as they writhe around on the stage at their surprise last-minute London show – a hot mess of fishnets, tats, heels, leather and glitter – you get the same feeling that they couldn’t possibly be doing anything else. They were born rockstars.
But the band we see before us were not the ‘overnight’ global success they’re perceived as. They formed in Rome in 2016; busking and playing pubs, schools, and anywhere that would have them before entering the Italian version of X Factor in 2017. They came second, but for the last time. Their debut album ‘Il ballo della vita’ came out in 2018 and won acclaim and awards in their home nation as they started to sell out shows across Europe. The breakthrough came with Eurovision earlier this year, but the winning gender-norm-challenging glam-rock banger ‘Zitti E Buoni’ (‘Shut Up and Behave’) had already gone double platinum and landed over 45 million streams before the final. In many ways, they’d already won.
Even after the titillating tabloid noise around whether singer Damiano David had taken drugs on screen at the competition or not had died down (he didn’t), their profile remained high; a religious following has since blossomed. And in the months since, they join ABBA and Céline Dion as the competition’s most successful victors.
The vibe around Islington’s O2 Academy is a little reminiscent of when Prince did his ad hoc Hit N’ Run shows around the capital in 2014. Oh we’ve missed these shotgun shows. Måneskin’s upcoming Brixton Academy gig sold out in minutes and with barely a day’s notice for this outing, a giddiness ripples through the devotees. The venue is packed. Many wait outside in the hope of being let in, this writer has to stand on a stool upstairs to glimpse the stage. Within moments, I am, quite literally, punching the ceiling.
Opening with the rollicking ‘In nome del Padre’ from this year’s ‘Teatro d’ira: Vol. I’ before rushing into an early outing of ‘Zitti e buoni’, Måneskin are uncaged as a growling rock beast with sharp claws and bright nail varnish. The party vibes continue with a short indie disco greatest hits montage of Franz Ferdinand’s ‘Take Me Out’ mashed up with The Killers’ ‘Somebody Told Me’ and an airing of their viral rendition of The Four Seasons’ ‘Beggin’.
If this is rock for the playlist generation and idols for the TikTok masses, then they’re worthy leaders – not least because their own stuff is powered on adrenaline and hedonism, loaded on bravado but without the macho bullshit: look no further than the hangover-inducing new single ‘Mammamia’ or open-road jam of ‘Close To The Top’. They later deliver a cover of The Stooges’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ with fitting authenticity, given that Iggy Pop himself recently gave his seal of approval by jumping on a version of their single ‘I Wanna Be Your Slave’ – another true highlight of the night. Closing with ‘Lividi sui gomiti’ as fans storm the stage, Måneskin prove themselves as a circus of maximalist rock’n’roll fun. For an encore, they decide to simply play ‘I Wanna Be Your Slave’ – their best song – again but harder.
Naysayers will try to brush them off as a novelty act, but Måneskin are no joke. They’re not a pastiche of former rock’n’roll glories, they’re living it. They’ve far more in common with Iggy & The Stooges than they do with The Darkness, and appear more the sort to worship at the altar of Placebo and read from the Velvet Goldmine playbook than riffing of Steel Panther’s tired japes. It’s douze points from us. Wham, bam, thank you Måneskin.
In nome del Padre
Zitti e buoni
Take Me Out (Franz Ferdinand cover) / Somebody Told Me (The Killers cover)
Beggin’ (The Four Seasons cover)
La paura del buio
For Your Love
Close to the Top
I Wanna Be Your Dog (The Stooges cover)
I Wanna Be Your Slave
Lividi sui gomiti
I Wanna Be Your Slave