Monday, October 29, 2007

Festival Gossip

"I never planned to write a review of The Gossip, but I cannot let a show like theirs pass without comment. This is my 21st Reading Festival, and I've witnessed some extraordinary performances in that time, of which my absolute favourite was Porno for Pyros in 1992, which featured Perry Farrell breaking off to berate the hecklesome crowd. Extract: "Listen to me. I'm 37 years old, and I'm cooler than any of you." It's an accolade bigger than Beth Ditto herself when I tell you that The Gossip are right up alongside that.

Beth bounds breathless from the airport in a borrowed purple dress which is five sizes too small and soon turns into a top when she wriggles a few times and it rides up over her ample hips (and eventually comes off altogether), a matching disc-shaped party hat and beautiful Siouxsie eye make-up. She apologises for being late, and tears through a scorching set which punctuates The Gossip's own raw, minimal garage-disco-blues-riot-grrl thing with snatches of "Rehab" ("So much respect for Amy Winehouse"), a self mockingly gluttonous adaptation of Haddaway's "What Is Love" ("When is lunch? Baby I'm hungry, I'm hungry, for more..."), and a bit of bitching which brings a mixture of boos and cheers: "As Madonna said, music makes the people come together. Although I'm not convinced that she said it. Someone else wrote it, and told her to sing it."

Stamping barefoot so that her cellulite ripples rhythmically and screaming with both passion and precision, she proves that her voice doesn't only possess that nebulous quality "soul" but also sheer technique. (There's never a bum note.) In a different era, she'd have been a disco diva. The fat lady sings.

They close with a Stanley knife-sharp version of "Standing in the Way of Control" which is so thrilling that you forget that you've heard it too many times, and even forget how much you want to punch that kid on the Skins trailer clean out of that bloody "field of dreams we're dancing in". And that is really saying something."