GANG OF FOUR at the Phoenix, May 14. Tickets: $27.50. Attendance: sold out.
Not sure how to say this sensitively, but from my vantage point on the Phoenix balcony I noticed Gang of Four has a lot of bald male fans. Probably about six times more bald guys than females, total, just to put this superficial observation in perspective.
This was a reminder of the young crowd the G4-derivative Futureheads pulled in when I caught them a few months ago, and of how little of that demo was at the grand reunion of the original Gang of Four lineup. It's a little surprising considering that on Edge 102 and Pitchfork alike, discofied rock - that post-punk sound they played a huge role in originating - is only the hottest thing right now. After the Arcade Fire, I mean.
Anyway, wow, what an amazing show.
Bright white spotlights caused a crowd-wide gleam as Gang of Four kicked things off with Return The Gift, the characteristically jangly but precise riff serving as the perfect soundscape for frontman Jon King to utterly lose his shit through much of their 1979 opus, Entertainment!
Dave Allen provided some robust thunks from his shiny black bass with the word "FACT" boldly sprawled across it. Guitarist/vocalist Andy Gill (who produced the Futureheads' debut album) could transfigure one long, unaccompanied guitar noodle into an impressive spectacle. But King, beyond his clear, strong voice, was ultimately what kept your eyes glued.
Generating the kind of energy usually found at large power stations with fences and warning signs, he scuttled all over the place looking both mischievous and tormented. His dancing - a cross between a priest with stigmata and an advanced Suzanne Somers cardio workout, arms outstretched, flapping furiously, becoming a panicked flutter of hands above his head - was first borderline insane. Then it became fully bonkers when he grabbed his knees and suddenly sprang sideways across the stage in wide leaps, like a frog hopping horizontally on lily pads.
He also played a Hohner melodica, shook a maraca and beat a microwave oven for several minutes while he sang with a demonic glimmer in his eyes, little bits of the appliance breaking off and bouncing onto the stage and into the crowd.
Don't be surprised if a few Gang of Four microwave bits surface on eBay soon.