Live Music + Gig Reviews

Peel Night: The Raconteurs + Squarepusher + The Horrors @ Electric Ballroom, London

26 October 2006

Quick, someone get Auntie! Call her now! Lucifer Sam has found his way inside and if someone doesn’t stop him there’s no telling what he could do.

Auntie should have known she would get more than she bargained for when she decided to invite three of the loudest acts around to play the confines of the 1,100 capacity Electric Ballroom.

Contesting The Good, The Bad and The Queen as the hottest ticket in town (Jude Law was in amongst the punters), if any night of the Electric Proms series was to sign off the ‘E’ in electric with a capital flourish, it would have to be this one, the second John Peel night since his death in 2004.
All Hallow’s Eve is still five days away, but a cryptic intro releases the undead in the heart of Camden tonight. Maybe it’s all the attention Faris Badwan is getting. Maybe it’s the psychedelic, kooky organ chords emanating to his left from Spider Webb, or the wall of noise being hammered out from his other band members, but The Horrors’ frontman is possesed by something. He yowls, howls, squeals and lurches his way through his band’s 25-minute set.

They’re not easy on the eye, or the ear. They’re like casualties cut free from a mangled car crash between the Sex Pistols, The Cramps and early Pink Floyd. This should not work and looks so wrong, but it does, including Spider Webb’s merciless attacks on his vox organ which would horrify any classical proms devotee tuning in out of curiosity.

Taunting both those in attendance and the wider audience this broadcast would go on to carry, Badwan spat: “Do you have anything to say?! Do you have anything to say?! You don’t have anything to say!” as he leapt into the front joining the small circle pit. Thank the Lord (or Lucifer) that we finally have a British band with a soul (of sorts) to put My Chemical Romance in their place, and commit them to 100 years in purgatory where they’ll be tortured endlessly by pneumatic drills.

Tom Jenkinson certainly had packed one in his toolbox. If ever a vivid indicator of the Beeb’s flirt with pop culture in this series existed, Squarepusher embodied it. The video screens boxed him into a pit elevating him like a symphony conductor. Jenkinson proved a fitting comparison and contrast to the BBC Concert Orchestra (who are in town in a couple of days with Kasabian and Guillemots), altering the mood with one movement of mouse or effects paraphernalia.

Each intricately crafted composition bubbled, squeeked, warbled, droned and drilled making some jittery, some jilted and others just plain confused. From Hellow Meow’s uplifting beginnings to Planetariums’s trippy futurescapes, the light show should have carried an epilepsy warning. Had Auntie brought out her tea cups they would have been left in pieces. Thankfully it’s plastic sound proofed cups and cold lager.

Ten of John Peel’s secret stash of 142 records are said to be White Stripes records. Jack White’s affection for Peel is mutual, as it was Peel who championed the White Stripes and registered them on the public radar: “He was proud he once met John Kennedy,” White recalls in the programme notes. “We were proud we once met John Peel..(He) was the only important DJ left in the world.”

I was not expecting a show this good. musicOMH were at The Raconteurs last week, and I was expecting a traipse through postured and overblown classic rock. But as a unit the energy and muscianship which electrifies the venue as soon as they pick up their instruments is simply enormous.

It felt right too. The cheesy group guitar jams and alpha male posturing. Every so often White would let one of those hounds of hell off the leash and the same demon that festered in Faris Badwan seemed to have found a new symbian for astonishing showings of Broken Boy Soldier and Store Bought Bones.

It wouldn’t be The Proms without an air of drama, and Bang, Bang delivered some, in a show-stopping blues-ballad rendition. In the covers stakes of course, there was one surefire one. Somehow, every time it is aired, be it in a stodgy indie club or on national radio for the billionath time since its inception, Teeange Kicks cannot help but induce carefree happiness that had the crop of all ages gathered here into an eruption of pure joy.

In the three who payed homage to Peel this evening, we had the personification of everything that music can do to people, and everything that was right about it, which is something John Peel took to amplifying so naturally.

The Beeb’s remit for universal access to all means it will rightly reach many more than the 1,100 gathered this evening. Watching it again, it doesn’t feel the same, nowhere near it in fact. For those of us who made it, there was a sense of fortune in being here and thankfullness that Auntie was actually quite cool – for once, though not as cool as our Grandpa John.

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