<preform>Erasure, Usher Hall, Edinburgh</br>Chromeo, Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh</preform>

You're a wonderful thing, baby!
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The Independent Culture

Erasure's show at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh is their first public appearance on British soil since Andy Bell announced that he was HIV positive. The second song they choose to play, "Hideaway" - an obscure album track dredged up from 1987's Circus - speaks volumes, its lyric about "coming out" being highly analogous to "going public": "One day the boy decided/ To let them know the way he felt inside/ He could not stand to hide it... Oh my mother, do you still cry yourself to sleep?/ Are you still proud of your little boy?" He follows it by offering the most belated "Happy New Year!" of 2005. A new beginning indeed.

Erasure's show at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh is their first public appearance on British soil since Andy Bell announced that he was HIV positive. The second song they choose to play, "Hideaway" - an obscure album track dredged up from 1987's Circus - speaks volumes, its lyric about "coming out" being highly analogous to "going public": "One day the boy decided/ To let them know the way he felt inside/ He could not stand to hide it... Oh my mother, do you still cry yourself to sleep?/ Are you still proud of your little boy?" He follows it by offering the most belated "Happy New Year!" of 2005. A new beginning indeed.

Everyone in the room gets the point. Tears are blinked back by many eyes, throats are raw from cheers. But Bell doesn't milk the situation for tragedy or sympathy. It's business as usual.

However, "usual", for Erasure, would be highly unusual for anyone else. The visual theme of the Nightbird tour is magical and cinematic, as becomes apparent as soon as the drapes drop to reveal one winged Pygar - Bell acknowledges that his costume is inspired by Barbarella but, perhaps deliberately, wrongly gives the character's name as "Durran Durran" (sic) - two Tinkerbells and a mad Howard Hughes (complete with leather aviator hat topped by a transparent satellite dish), in an enchanted Tolkien forest.

The latter costume belongs to Vince Clarke, one of the unsung pop geniuses of the last 25 years (lest we forget, in addition to Erasure, he founded Depeche Mode and Yazoo, and the short-lived Assembly, a quite extraordinary legacy), and a famously enigmatic and reclusive man.

Halfway through a cover of Blondie's "Rapture", chosen because it reminds Bell of having a crush on his grandad's window cleaner "when I was a little girl", Clarke breaks his silence, picks up an old brass telephone, and delivers Debbie's berserk rap, in a robotic monotone: "He shoots you dead and he eats your head/ And then you're in the man from Mars/ You go out at night eating cars/ You eat Cadillacs, Lincolns too, Mercurys and Subaru..." Because of who he is, and because of how he is, it brings the house down.

Andy Bell is a born show-off, and there's always been something little-boyish about him, in the glee with which he enjoys raiding the dressing-up box. Tonight he strips to a flesh-coloured body stocking flecked with sparkles (à la Britney), then dons a black and rhinestone like a camp(er) Elvis, then strips to his (gold, PVC) undies for a near-nude fan dance.

Despite having a new album to promote, the set list leans heavily on their Pop! - The First 20 Hits compilation (one of the most jaw-dropping Greatest Hits ever released, by the way), encompassing "Circus", "Ship of Fools", "Breath of Life", "Chains of Love", "Love to Hate You", and a double-whammy of "Drama" and "Stop" has a thousand pink boas and sequinned stetsons bobbing (Edinburgh has dressed for the occasion).

After an even louder singalong for "A Little Respect" and the sublime eco-anthem "Chorus", Bell finds time for one more moment of sadness: "Don't Say You Love Me", from the Nightbird album, with its references to "strange things that make me die...", before encoring with "Who Needs Love Like That", "Oh L'Amour", and, inevitably, closing with "Sometimes". The terrifying thing is that Vince and Andy could have played another hour and still have hits to spare.

Chromeo are shameless. Chromeo are unapologetic. Chromeo are my new favourite band. This Canadian, Eighties-influenced electro-funk duo, billed as "the only successful Arab-Jew partnership since the down of human culture", may be supporting Bloc Party at present, plying their wares to funk-phobic indie kids, but they deserve to blow up bigger than the headliners before the year is out.

Musicians who set out with noble intentions of eclecticism often end up merely making a mess. Chromeo are all about parameters. From Moroder to vocoder, from LCD to LRD, their field of vision is narrow, but within it, they are visionaries.

"I say 'Chro-mee', you say 'Oh!'" instructs Dave 1 (aka David Macklovitch), a lanky, geeky, bespectacled guy who's a dead ringer for Weird Al Yankovic.

His partner in rhyme, Pee-Thugg (aka Patrick Gemayel), looks like a stock bad guy from a rapsploitation movie, and supplies high-pitched robotic backing vocals with a talkbox (a tube in his mouth, which looks like a shower nozzle, leading back to a keyboard), as employed by Peter Frampton, and by Neil Young on Trans.

Their musical signposts range from the retro-nouveau to the plain retro, the cool to the seriously uncool: Prince, Daft Punk, Hall and Oates, Cameo, Rockwell, Mylo, Freeez, New Edition, Paul Hardcastle, and back to Prince again.

Debut album She's In Control is laced with a kind of righteous misogyny, a male backlash against the hellish fury of woman's scorn (you get the feeling they've given Alexander O'Neal's "Criticize" a few spins over the years).

It's also a work of genius. And remarkably, the impossibly infectious recent single "Needy Girl" even wins over the unsuspecting Bloc Party kids. The ruddy-cheeked Scots teens can't help but comply. "Chro-mee! Oh! Chro-mee! Oh!" Remember the name.

s.price@independent.co.uk

Erasure: Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham (0115 989 5555), Mon; Carling Apollo, Manchester (0870 401 8000), Wed; Octagon, Sheffield Uni (0114 222 8777), Thur; Preston Guildhall and Charter Theatre, Lancashire ( 01772 258858), Fri. Chromeo: Old Blue Last, London EC1 (020 7613 2478), tonight

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