“If the kids wanna come over the barrier,” a Lycra-clad Beth Ditto informs a worried-looking security guard from the stage, “Just let ’em!”
To be honest, you’d expect nothing less from Ditto, high priestess of the most catholic rock’n’roll faith around. As would probably be the case with any band fronted by an unabashedly plus-sized lesbian, raised eating squirrels in a trailer park, Gossip are an oasis for outsiders of all kinds. But since ‘Standing In The Way Of Control’ attained phenomenon status in 2007, they’ve found themselves in the odd position of being insiders. The question now – and certainly the one their new (major) label will be asking – is whether the masses will be as willing as tonight’s audience are to jump the barrier again.
Announcing three songs in that they’re about to play a new tune, Ditto sarcastically acknowledges, “It had to happen sometime, right?” It really did, and any fears that their new album ‘Music For Men’ might somehow disappoint are swiftly assuaged. There’s the raspy electro-blues of ‘Men In Love’, with it’s addictive “shame, shame, shame” refrain, new single ‘Heavy Cross’ with its throbbing ‘Edge Of Seventeen’ intro and jagged, Franzian stabs of guitar, and, best of all, the pulsing, synth-heavy grind of ‘Four Letter Word’, which sparks the stage invasion Ditto’s been trying to incite all night. You can question their punk rock credentials if you want, but you can’t question their infectiousness.
And besides, Gossip have all the edge they’ll ever need in the form of Ditto, who tonight is resplendent in a miniscule black swimsuit and silver lamé jacket – she’s her usual endearingly trashy self, burping into the mic and grilling the audience about their love lives. Her voice is worth the admission price alone – and indeed Gossip are even more of an awesome live proposition now they have a full-time bassist beefing up the likes of ‘Jealous Girls’ and ‘Listen Up!’.
After the final notes of ‘Four Letter Word’, the invaders stay on the stage, goading the band back on for an encore. Gossip duly oblige, and ‘Standing In The Way Of Control’ is fired through at an electric pace, with Ditto stood roaring in the middle of the audience. Yet, while the song continues to thrill almost in spite of itself, tonight is about shedding the fallacy that it’s the only great one they’ve ever written. As Beth herself says, it had to happen sometime, right?