Fat White Family are a freaky eclectic gang, and they attract an audience to match. The crowd is full of people from every walk of life, from middle-aged men to teenage girls to hipsters. No matter what walk of life these punters have come from, they have one thing in common – they have all come to see a real show.
It is no surprise then that the place erupts into life when the lights go out, and a deep rumbling bass creeps up from the darkness. It grows into a shrieking interlude into an extended version of Auto Neutron that pumps along and teases the crowd. It broods on for what seems like ages, but in reality is only a few minutes, until suspense and anticipation hang heavy in the air.
Then on storms Lias Saoudi in all his menacing swagger, topless and ready to deliver the goods. Auto Neutron finally begins in all its extremity, with the South London crew belting and shrieking out with all the energy they can muster up. Saoudi erratically paces the stage, twisting and bending his body against the lights so to strike silhouette-like poses that capture his movements. He bellows into the crowd, and makes damn sure that all eyes are firmly on him.
The thing with Fat White Family is that for all their energy and entertainment, it does frequently feel like a set that lacks originality. Sure, they’re topless, they’re crazy and they evidently don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of them, but their live performance feels as though it has been based upon the clichés of bands long past. Saoudi’s enormous hair and tendency towards throwing himself around the stage is reminiscent of so many that have come before him: Nick Cave circa The Birthday Party, Iggy Pop and perhaps even the infamous performances from The Libertines in their heyday.
That’s not to say that their modern take on the chaotic rock performance is necessarily a bad thing. Songs like I Am Mark E Smith and Wet Hot Beef are not to be messed with, and reveal the creeping darkness that envelops the band’s music and the astonishing racket they can make. When the music explodes, the place becomes a hot bed of head-banging, mosh pits and chaos.
There were points however when Saoudi’s energy appeared to not be enough, as much of the audience talked relentlessly throughout, choosing to stay by the bar rather than get involved with the ramshackle madness that was erupting at the front. This points to one of two things- either that they couldn’t take the heat, or that they followed the hype that has surrounded Fat White Family’s latest record Champagne Holocaust and didn’t quite know what they were letting themselves in for.
Yet, love them or hate them, there’s no stopping Fat White Family in their relentless quest to cause havoc and test the boundaries of today’s music culture, and that act of questioning is something that should be commended. But with closing number Bomb Disneyland there’s an overwhelming sense that Fat White Family really do not give a damn what anyone thinks about them. They will keep doing what they do and you can take it or leave it, but you won’t be able to ignore them.