Live Music + Gig Reviews

Theoretical Girl @ End, London

3 December 2007

A gig at a nightclub can be difficult to pull off. The band usually won’t be on till late and there could be a tricky crowd who might prefer to carry on shimmying to the sounds of the DJ. Durrr at The End however has devoted Monday nights to alternative music with added live bands, and thanks to some inspired choices of acts, and by making them the focal point of the night rather than simply an inconvenience, it’s proving popular.

With the warm-up music playing the likes of The Violets and The Long Blondes, the crowd are ready for a punky girl group by the time Theoretical Girl, aka Amy Turnnidge, and her band The Equations appear. They come on at half past midnight although that’s probably not much of a problem for the trendy young student types who make up most of the punters here. The girls’ style harks back to the ’60s with Turnnidge resembling a young Cilla Black in her busy dress and killer heels.

First track is The Hypocrite, which was to be released the day of the gig, but she announces that it’s been put back till February 2008, without an indication as to why. In any case, it’s a good start that encapsulates the band’s spiky DIY indie pop sound. The tracks that follow demonstrate a keen ability to find a strong melody but the arrangements are perhaps overly simplistic. Turnnidge has previously said that she doesn’t like chords, preferring to concentrate on layers of simple guitar lines, but at times the songs need a bit more gusto. At the same time, this may explain her appeal. After all, genius instrumentation can make an otherwise edgy, dynamic band worthy and boring.

Despite the girls’ heavy fringes and highly styled hair, there is a refreshing lack of pretension. Turnnidge in particular comes across as relatable, vulnerable and her music seems honest, like she’s not trying to be something she’s not. She engages constantly with the crowd between songs, twittering on about this and that. Perhaps a display of nervous energy, you warm to her self-deprecating nature, as she apologises for a rubbish guitar solo, and the band generally peer around bemused by the occasional feedback glitches.

It’s explained that tonight’s a bit emotional as guitarist and backing vocalist Rosie, and bass guitarist Sam are playing their last gig with her before leaving to focus on their own project Ipso Facto. It’ll be interesting to see if she sticks with the all-female formula as it’s something this country hasn’t successfully produced in band form for some time.

Previous limited edition single Red Mist is already a classic belter of a tune and the crowd respond in kind. It’s the best song they have and while ballad Another Fight stands up well as a strong tune which suits their back-to-basics nature, some of the others don’t make as much impact. And while the Theoretical Girl’s persona is an attractive, natural one, she could do with conveying more confidence and having a bit more attitude. They close with Divided and leave the stage one at a time.

It’ll be interesting to see if her next backing band will instigate any changes in style and performance. While there are big improvements to the live show that can be made, it’s still early days and there are seeds here that could become something for this country to be very proud of.

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More on Theoretical Girl
Theoretical Girl – Divided
Theoretical Girl @ End, London