Adam Green, Koko, London
Thursday 10 April 2008
The soundtrack to indie hit Juno pushed 26-year-old Adam Green and his Moldy Peaches lyricist Kimya Dawson into the mainstream. When the then-mid-teenager and twentysomething Dawson first joined forces, they were part of the anti-folk scene that gives folk songs a punky edge. But the indie fans here hoping for cutesy Moldy Peaches songs might be disappointed; the duo have made a pact not to play their band work at solo shows. Besides, Green is keen to show off the crooning baritone he has been developing ever since.
The fancy-dress wearing Peaches were accused of being a novelty act. Tonight, Green's donned an Ozzy Osbourne-inspired outfit, with tassels on the sleeves, so when he flaps his arms, they look like wings. The act takes a good dose of imagination, invention and guts – all of which Green has in abundance. His new album, Sixes and Sevens, is possibly his most inventive to date.
A few months ago, Green played solo at the Union Chapel to an audience that included the Mighty Boosh's Julian Barratt and Chris Morris. Tonight is a noisier affair, and Green brings out the cha-cha-chas and crooning of his latest solo album with a full band and two gospel singers. With all this bravado, you would expect a celebratory atmosphere, but not tonight. "You guys are so well-mannered. It's almost scary, like a barrier. It's weird."
You can't blame it on English manners. There is a distinct feeling that Green is having a lot more fun than his audience. Against a huge backdrop of his face (his self-titled album cover), when Green introduces his band's names, and adds, "I don't need an introduction because I'm amazing", it doesn't prompt the type of screaming and adulation that he is accustomed to.
What lets the show down most of all is the weakness of the new material. Just as the album lacks a cohesive feel, hopping uncomfortably from one musical setting to another, tonight's set splices his idiosyncratic scruffy cuteness with crooners like "Morning After Midnight", and throughout he melds an Elvis theatricality with Leonard Cohen-style poetics. It's his older songs such as "Jessica Simpson", "Gemstones" and "Novotel" that receive the biggest reaction from the crowd, but even these scruffy indie favourites get the new smooth sheen and gospel inflation. Mid-set, Green takes his guitar to play "No Legs" and "Dance With Emily" solo. That these two songs are the best of the night, shows that perhaps Green should stick to what he does so perfectly: scruffy anti-folk songs on his acoustic guitar.
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