Plates of stale sandwiches covering the bar seem an unlikely and distinctly un-rock-’n'-roll accompaniment to New York garage-glam rockers Semi Precious Weapons, over in London for the first time to play a clutch of shows.
“You guys are looking fabulous tonight. I love you all,” wails androgynistic blond wonder boy Justin ‘Precious’ Tranter, drawing attention to this unlikely crowd of mis-shapes who’ve gathered in this tiny room with a stage of similar size to a tabletop.
These guys rock. It feels as if you have stepped back three decades – Tranter is glam personified. The band builds his entrance; Dan Crean pounds away on the drums with not a hair of that uber-lacquered display falling out of place, whilst Cole Whittle and Aaron Lee Tasjan riff their hearts out. And they go on. And on.
Tranter emerges onto the tiny stage by the help of a conveniently placed (but not-so-glam) chair. The band continue to riff as he lives up to his name, building the ultimate of entrances and proving that he is one hell of a showman. Resembling something of an Edwardian dandy misplaced in the future, Tranter is dressed in one of his infamous ensembles consisting of tights, endless ruffles and gravity-defying fuck-me boots. His make-up is superbly theatrical and he looks every inch of the glam rock superstar. Slowly turning to face the audience he bursts into the opening of rapidly-emerging favourite That’s Kunt and setting the precedent for how they mean to go on.
There is no doubt that this lot put their all into the performance. Despite this being their UK debut, this miniscule stage proves simply not enough as Precious consumes the crowd and surrounding area. He works his way across crowd and chairs, leaving a path of destruction in the form of spectators who have experienced his crotch, with those skin-like translucent tights being used as a poor but fantastic excuse of modesty, being thrust into their faces.
Ever the showman, he spends a great deal of time glaring, pouting, striking and even performing the splits, whilst constantly readjusting his shock of platinum hair. Precious by name, Precious by nature he is one hell of a high-maintenance frontman. Nonetheless, the band supports his vanity by leading their way through the mayhem constantly. His vanity and arrogant charm is consolidated by lyrics such as “I can’t pay my rent but I’m fucking gorgeous” pretty much summing up the ethic behind SPW.
His persona, compared to the other members of the band, does make you question whether Tranter has stepped onto the wrong stage. For what he screams from the top of his ever-so-perfect lungs glam, Whittle and Tasjan bellow Garage as loud. SPW’s debut album, We Love You provides an unlikely combination of pounding, dirty machismo guitars accompanied by Tranter’s powerful and extroverted voice that oozes femininity. It works. And damn well at that. If renowned executive producer Tony Visconti and manager JP Fallon had been hatching a Frankenstein-type experiment for the past 20 years to merge their protg predecessors such as Bowie and Led Zeppelin into a 21st century super group, they could not have done a better job.
Contradictions at play yet again, the faultless set is concluded with a tender version of blues-tinged Time Zones. Any sentimentality is rapidly destroyed however, as Tranter commands the obedient audience “Louder you cunts… Now shut-up! We have two important issues to discuss here. One, how gorgeous I am, and we’ve covered that; and two, buy my jewellery!”
As the crowd rush to snap up their exclusive merchandise, which finances the band – their debut album is available for free download – you can only leave this electric performance feeling grateful. Grateful this will probably be the last time they ever play anywhere on such an intimate scale. For judging by this performance, on their return they will be filling stadiums rather than pubs.