Members of bands please note: the way you interact with the audience at your gigs can make or break you. Many an asymmetrical-haired, Atkins-dieted Lou Reed worshiper has forsaken witty onstage banter for incomprehensible murmurs and Antarctic-cold stares. You’ve paid your money to see your favourite band – the least they can do is acknowledge your existence, right?
Well, welcome to The Gossip. Here, Beth Ditto’s megaphonic tornado-tunnel larynx will leave your windswept mind in little doubt of where you are. Tonight, between atomic vocal blasts, Beth could easily pull the plug on the amps and launch into a one-woman comedy show as she demands shots of JD, gin or anything else with more than 40 per cent alcohol volume. Charisma drips from every one of her pores – she’s got a rapier wit and enough nifty dance moves to give Beyoncé ‘Bootylicious’ Knowles a run for her money.
As the first riff of ‘Jealous Girls’ pops its moody head round the corner, guitarist Brace hunches his back and flops his fringe over his eyes as though preparing himself for some unbridled force of nature. He knows exactly what’s coming – by the second half of the song, Beth is a shimmying whirlwind of Arkansas emotion. Twisting from side to side, screaming “Jealousy, it feels like everything has come undone/No matter what the price, they can’t take me!”. If you can picture what The Exorcist would be like if that weird priest guy had been replaced with a white Aretha Franklin and her two trainee pastors in sleeveless
T-shirts and emo fringes, then you’ll know exactly what it feels like to see ‘Listen Up’ live. The Devil wouldn’t stand a chance against these three evangelists of dirty-south-new-rave-rock-soul. “Who wants to hear a gay love song?” yells Beth to the crowd as she launches, sorry, crawls like a hungry alligator of lesbian love into ‘Coal To Diamonds’, the Southern Comfort-doused slow-burner packed with enough emotion to melt the iron beams above our heads. Even this though is merely an appetiser for the bands lustful cover of Aaliyah’s ‘Are You That Somebody?’. Tonight you can hear the goose bumps pricking up on people’s necks as Beth’s vocals saunter through the Academy hopping from pounding undiluted rock (‘Fire With Fire’) to slinky heartfelt soul (‘Dark Lines’) with an ease, flare and pure rock’n’roll spirit. Which is exactly why they deserve to be your new favourite band.