Peaches, Brixton Academy London

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Peaches is hardly the first artist to flaunt a confrontational sexuality on stage. But unlike, say, Courtney Love, this Canadian-born, Berlin-based electro-rocker (also known as Merril Nisker) is apparently the embodiment of sweetness and light when not performing. "I struggle to comprehend how she can spew forth so many expletives on her records and remain so tenderly spoken," one journalist wrote. And while two clicks on Peaches' website can bring you face-to-groin with her "crotch shot gallery", the gal herself has often been at pains to stress she's no trollop.

Taking her stage name from the Nina Simone song "For Woman", Peaches can count Michael Stipe and Christina Aguilera among her fans, and Iggy Pop and Pink among her collaborators. Sonically, her songs are Spartan affairs typically comprising beat-box and vocal, the odd splash of fuzz guitar and the occasional synthesiser bassline. This approach serves to emphasise strong, often syncopated pop melodies and lyrics which, though rarely short on eyebrow-raising content, are often witty, iconoclastic and thought-provoking, rather than merely gratuitous.

Tonight, Peaches is wearing boxing boots, black stockings and a metallic-blue mini-dress. Or at least she is initially. As she segues from "I'm the Kinda" to "Shake Yer Dix", various items are shed in a way that would make Prince look like Daniel O'Donnell.

Watching her cavort, you can't help but feel voyeuristic. And although Peaches has suggested that any carnal thoughts she elicits might be best off-loaded on to one's partner, not everyone's partner wears tight pink shorts whose concession to the "camel-toe" look is so brazen. She does backward rolls on a raised, spotlit platform and gets phallocentric with her microphone. There is an unmistakable performance-art aspect to what Peached does live, but the boil of pretentiousness is constantly lanced by rock'n'roll audacity.

There are aspects of her show that it would be easy to diss. Despite fleeting forays on electric guitar, for example, Peaches sings to a backing track. But this is no gimmick - her vocal performance on "Operate" is jaw-droppingly powerful and beautifully controlled. Best of all, perhaps, is "Kick It", during which a video backdrop enables her to engage in a virtual duet with the aforementioned Iggy Pop. As the tune's snare drum drives a primal, skeletal guitar riff, the Brixton crowd goes bananas.

Iggy: "I heard you like kinky shit."

Peaches: "That just depends who I'm with."

Iggy: "What is it? S & M or some kind of toy?"

Peaches: "Like you said, search and destroy."

Right at the end, there's a neat set-piece in which, having returned to the stage after a crowd surf, Peaches feigns a head injury. Milking the old "show must go on" routine, she appears to projectile-vomit fake blood on to the front-row audience. Now you don't get that at a Celine Dion gig, do you ?