Thu, May 8
MEL C at the Phoenix Rating: NNN
Mel C’s always been the only Spice Girl with any real talent. Even before her solo career really started to move along, she was far more into playing pop rock than bubble gum.
But her recent reunion tour with her former group has had a somewhat adverse effect on her performance. Basically, the tedious choreography of the Spice Girls routines has sapped Miss Chisholm’s ability to conjure up the spirit of spontaneity. Though she makes much of dancing and slinking, the general spirit of the show seems forced.
Granted, she’s still an energetic and capable performer who appeared genuinely chuffed to be playing to a small throng of squealing, banner-holding fans up front. The rest of the almost full venue seemed just as into her set, albeit in a more sedated way. The former Sporty ran through a thorough show, borrowing from all four of her solo records and even tossing in that one she did with Bryan Adams.
Despite her contrived routine, her enthusiasm was genuine. Her voice, which remains her best asset, held up nicely, sounding even better than it does on disc.
Fri, May 9
QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE at the El Mocambo, Rating: NNN
In theory this should have been a very, very good idea: intimate setting, good band and a crowd of people who really wanted to be there. (Tickets on Craigslist went for five times face value.) So why an essentially foolproof night came dangerously close to being a total washout is anybody’s guess. Could’ve been the stupid premise, “A night you’ll never remember,” as it was billed, that somehow implied we’d all be taking bong hits and shotgunning cans of Bud when we weren’t raising our devil horns and making out with strangers.
While the crowd was passive, I dunno if the Queens of the Stone Age could ever truly disappoint. They played a bunch of the songs you hoped they’d play and made a lot of noise, but at times they looked bored to tears. Sure, a few mega-fans clambering near the stage probably creamed their pants to be so close to the band. But the most remarkable thing about “the night I won’t bother remembering” is how unremarkable it really was.
BLACK KIDS at the Phoenix, Rating: NNN
As Black Kids, twitching nervously onstage, played their charismatic if underdeveloped songs, you couldn’t help wondering if the barely two-year-old Jacksonville five-piece are lambs being led to the hype-machine slaughter.
Yes, they’ve shown prodigious potential with immediately likeable Cure-meets-Bowie songs like I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You and Hurricane Jane, both from their blog-buzzed EP, Wizards Of Ahhhs. But their opening performance at the Phoenix suggested it might be too much too soon for them to be touring 1,000-plus venues.
Frontman Reggie Youngblood, a walking assortment of 80s references, from his Robert Smith vocals to Prince-style guitar moves, looked stiff throughout and unsure how to handle the capacity audience, many of whom were already familiar with BK’s set. If they keep up the hard-touring schedule, however (and a major label debut set for July ensures that they will), these Kids will likely grow up in a hurry.
Sun, May 11
CLINIC and SHEARWATER at Lee’s Palace, Rating: NNN
Openers Shearwater (the mellower side project of Okkervil River’s Will Sheff and Jonathan Meiburg) took the stage before a small yet receptive crowd. At their best, they sounded like a subdued mix of the Pixies and Arcade Fire, and at their worst the quintet plodded through some meandering middle ground.
Up next, Clinic – you know, those blokes from Liverpool who always play in surgical masks – managed to pull in the half-full room. Once onstage, frontman Ade Blackburn promptly informed the audience – in a, dare I say, clinical tone – that their show would consist of two sets, one culled from their most recent release, Do It, followed by an “encore” of older fan favourites.
Sounding a bit like Mclusky (if Andy Falkous were more into weirdo psych-rock and less pissed off all the time), Clinic proved creative, competent and succinct without really blowing my mind.