Ah, good old University of London Union. A place I haven’t been to since I was a wee student and the likes of Rage Against The Machine were doing their first UK headlining tour. Nice to see that while the world outside changes, student cloisters do not. Surely ULU must be the only gig venue around where you are greeted by an indoor swimming pool on entry. But I digress.
Tonight we are here to see Electric Six, the Detroit group whose unquestionably catchy, disco-rock single, Danger! High Voltage, has struck a chord with the inkie press and record-buying public alike, and recently entered the charts at number 2.
Given the video for Danger! High Voltage and the far-from-serious stage names of the band members, it is apparent that many of the crowd have a number of questions in anticipation of tonight’s show. Like, is Electric Six a joke band? What exactly do Dick Valentine, The Rock And Roll Indian, Surge Joebot, Disco and M look like? And, are their other songs any good?
Judging by tonight’s performance, Electric Six is not merely a novelty group, just one with a warped sense of humour and worrying lack of style. Singer Dick Valentine bears an uncanny facial resemblance to Lord Percy from Blackadder, bassist M is Tommy Vance, at least one of The Rock And Roll Indian and Surge Joebot is Fidel Castro’s younger brother in a ’70s suit, while the anonymous keyboardist looks like Howard Jones with sillier hair.
As for the question of whether their other songs are any good, the answer is a not quite non-committal, “sometimes”. For the most part their set consists of well-executed, rocking songs, in the vein of a sleazier MC5. They do not name the songs so all I can say is he track that was helpfully introduced as “Song Number 3” stood out, probably because it bore the most resemblance to Danger! High Voltage with its danceable rhythm and liberal keyboard splashes.
Said single was eventually thrown in just before the end of the main set and, played live, lost most of its disco element and silly yelping. It still sounded exceedingly fine live, though, which is definitely a sign of a quality song.
Highlights of the evening were when the band felt the need to apologise for their President, something which they apparently do every night on their travels, and the encore, a hammed-up, but ultimately glorious version of Queen‘s Radio Ga Ga. I, for one, am convinced that they should release this as their next single, and not the high camp-rock attack of the self-explanatory Gay Bar.
Regardless of this, it will be interesting to see whether Electric Six is still packing in the crowds on their full-scale UK tour in May, never mind in a year’s time. For now, enjoy them while you can.