see all the photos from this concert here

Andi Sex Gang
The Dead
Devilish Presley
Rome Burns
Underworld, London
Sunday August 29 2004
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

It’s been five years since Andi Sex Gang played the Underworld. I have a particular reason for recalling this statistic: I was the promoter of his last gig here. That night remains in my memory as...well, let’s say, something special. It certainly wasn’t an ordinary gig, as you can possibly tell from this uk.people.gothic thread which appeared shortly after the dust had settled:

This time, things look likely to be a little more straightforward. No Hare Krishna dance troupes, at any rate. Some things, you can only do just once.  Instead, we have a varied bunch of support bands, the first of which is Rome Burns. They’re one of those ‘been around a bit, never really made the breakthrough’ outfits which lurk in the murkier corners of the UK goth scene. They’ve made some very fine music in their time, but they’ve never quite touched down in the paydirt zone. Perhaps that situation will shortly change, because their set of erudite, wordy, quirky songs seems to hit the spot with the audience tonight. ‘Nothing good can ever come from this!’ chortles the vocalist, as the band rattle in to the first song. Musically and lyrically, Rome Burns probably have more in common with all sorts of off-centre pop practitioners, from Talking Heads to They Might Be Giants, than yer actual goff bands. If you close your eyes, you can imagine a band of new-wavers standing there in skinny-fit T-shirts and Converse All-Star sneakers. Open your eyes and...there’s a bunch of goths on stage. Mike from Manuskript is also on stage for one song, as an impromptu backing singer.  It seems he’s doing some production work for the band, and if anyone’s on the Rome Burns weird-pop wavelength, I think it would be Mike. I look forward to hearing the results of this collaboration.

Devilish Presley do their usual trick of pouring petrol onto the gig-fire.  Any time Devilish Presley appear at a gig, you can bet the energy levels will suddenly shoot off the scale. They do it again tonight with a set of manic boisterousness, all battering beats and rip-roaring guitar; and as ever with this band I’m struck by the fact that there’s such an outpouring of energy you hardly notice that there’s only two people on stage. The Devilish Presley fan club is in full effect down the front - one of them donates his hat to Johnny Navarro - and even some unplanned guitar-glitches can’t stop the flow. There’s a new song in the set, a tribute to blues guitarist and inventor of all that became rock ‘n’ roll, Robert Johnson - the band bigging him up in such familiar terms you’d almost believe the pioneering bluesman was one of Devilish Presley’s mates from East London.  Maybe, in their heads, he is.

Demeter are an odd bunch. They’re half way between a full-on glam rock experience and some sort of ethereal outfit. It’s as if the band couldn’t quite decide whether they wanted to be Hanoi Rocks or the Cranes, so they compromised and ended up being a bit of both. Their songs smooch along on smooth, almost ambient, grooves, then occasionally erupt with squalls of big guitar - which just as quickly die away again, leaving the band tip-toeing their way once more through the sensitive zone. The vocals are way down in the mix, an incomprehensible croon, so much so that I can’t quite work out if the vocalist is singing in plain English, or if she’s doing Cocteau Twins-style random vocalisations. One odd touch is the fact that the singer has two microphones arrayed on a kind of gantry in front of her: the additional mic, apparently, is plugged into some sort of effects unit, although why the effects couldn’t be controlled from a foot switch, or flown in and out by the engineer at the front of house desk, is a bit of a mystery. As it is, I’m forced to take my photos of the vocalist exclusively from the stage-left angle, because the other side of her face is masked by frankly unnecessary extra hardware. I’m left with the impression that Demeter are a band with plenty of ideas, but not necessarily the nous to put those ideas into practice in the most effective way.

It wouldn’t be an Andi Sex Gang gig if we didn’t get some art thrown at us, and sure enough here it comes. A motley assortment of individuals appears, un-billed and unnanounced, on stage. ‘We are The Dead,’ announces the frontman, and I’m not at all sure if that’s the name of the ensemble or simply an observation of their state of being. ‘A post-punk aberration,’ he elaborates - and then they kick up a mad swirl of free-form noise, over which we are treated to a poetry recital. The audience wears expressions ranging from intrigued delight to outright horror. There are only three poems, and I think it’s wise of the band to keep things to this minimal level. An abrupt, hit-and-run raid of powernoise performance poetry works rather well in a short, sharp, shock kind of way, but any longer and I suspect The Dead would definitely outstay their welcome.

At last, it’s time for Andi Sex Gang himself. This is an ‘ambient/acoustic’ performance, a detail which never quite made it onto any of the pre-gig publicity, which means many people in the audience are a little bemused to discover that there isn’t a full band on stage tonight. Andi is joined by two Sex Gang guitarists - and that’s that. No rhythm section, no backing tracks. But for all that, the sound is detailed and full, rolling out of the PA and filling the venue quite impressively, as the guitars jostle and duel. Andi himself - suited, booted, and wearing a pair of frankly alarming spectacles - stands centre-stage and effortlessly commands the proceedings.  This performance showcases Andi Sex Gang the torch song balladeer, rather than Andi Sex Gang the abrasive post-punk rocker, so the overall style is grandly dramatic, all sweeping gestures as Andi virtually acts his way through the songs. It’s an engaging performance, although I can’t help wondering what the be-mohawked hordes of diehard deathrockers who revere the Sex Gang Children as post-punk heroes would say if they could see this side of Andi Sex Gang’s art. ‘Arms Of Cicero’ is a sweeping, swooning highlight, but it’s ‘Sebastiane’ - here rendered almost as a doomed ballad - that captures everybody’s attention and even provokes some dancing down the front, although this set is hardly designed to get the mosh seething. I dare say this isn’t Andi Sex Gang as most of his fans would think of him, but as an exercise in cerebral, cabaret cool, this show works rather well.

see all the photos from this concert here

Andi Sex Gang:
Devilish Presley:
Rome Burns:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: