Scissor Sisters, Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow
Aerosmith, 02, London
The New Yorkers kept a promise and gave their new album its world premiere in Glasgow, to an ecstatic reception
Sunday 20 June 2010
Flattering the crowd is the oldest trick in the showbiz book, but for once it's genuine. Last time Scissor Sisters played Barrowland, they enjoyed it so much that they vowed to showcase their next album here and, impressively, this wasn't bull.
The New Yorkers' third effort, Night Work, does indeed receive its world premiere in the legendary Glasgow ballroom, and Ana Matronic, who admits she was welling up when she heard the famous Barrowland roar from the wings, declares herself an honorary Glaswegian for the night.
It figures that they'd be as good as their word. After all, Scissor Sisters were – maybe still are – a band to believe in. An inclusive Rainbow Nation of male, female, gay, bi and straight, they embodied in terms of gender and sexuality what Sly and the Family Stone did in terms of race, when they first came pirouetting into view.
They may have been too vanilla for some tastes, but what Scissor Sisters achieved in terms of mainstream acceptance of alternative sexualities must not be underestimated. They were a band uniquely able to reach out to anyone, regardless of age and background: I meet at least one person who's literally taken their mama out tonight.
I, for one, was so swept up with the Scissors' liberation philosophy that I came a needle's width from having their logo tattooed on my bicep. But after their second album Ta-Da arrived with an inferior killer-filler ratio to its hit-packed predecessor, I was glad I'd bottled out of that plan.
Tonight, it doesn't take long to remember why I loved them. When Jake Shears, in stonewashed jeggings, trademark braces and a soon-discarded vest, starts dancing like a puppet on invisible strings and Ana Matronic starts crawling towards him like Catwoman, it's as if they have never been away.
Ana's easily Jake's equal as a focus of attention. Wearing a dress made of rubber, her hair in 1940s victory rolls – simultaneously classy and kinky – she's the Sisters' genial ringmistress, in contrast to the more reticent Jake. And a married woman she may be, but she's a much-adored dykon, every bit as popular with that demographic as Shears is with the boys. When she slaps her own posterior, there's a telltale high-pitched scream.
Comeback single "Fire with Fire" isn't working for me yet, but other Night Work excerpts such as "Whole New Way" seamlessly reprise the Scissors' trick of fusing dancefloor grooves with charleston/ragtime/ vaudeville daftness, and can live alongside oldies such as the Parton-channelling "Laura", the Teutonic perv-pop of "Tits on the Radio" and the hillbilly disco of "I Don't Feel Like Dancing".
On the basis of this first taster, that tattoo might be back on. At least a temporary henna version ...
There are many bands who could lay claim to being the inspiration for Spinal Tap, but Aerosmith's case is among the most convincing. The Tap's "Hello, Cleveland!" moment is the sort of thing that happened to Steve Tyler and Joe Perry on a regular basis in their Seventies pomp. On one occasion, for example, the band decided to reverse the normal order of their set, which so disorientated a drug-damaged Tyler that he sang the first song (normally their last), triumphantly yelled "Thank you, good night!" and strode off into the wings.
Make no mistake, this is a band who've lived it. Steven Davis's official Smith-ography, Walk This Way, easily the match of Mötley Crüe's The Dirt, charts their rise from playing scuzzy dives where Hell's Angels fought to the death in front of them to making their name as the archetypal good-time Southern boogie outfit (no mean feat for a band from Boston), to the scandalous behaviour that accompanied their imperial phase. In guitarist Joe Perry's case, this meant getting through heroin like it was sugar on his Kellogg's. In Steve Tyler's case, it was shacking up with a 14-year-old whose legal guardianship he somehow obtained from her parents.
My favourite anecdote, though, is the one about produced Jack Douglas hanging live crabs from the ceiling of a studio whose light switch was on the far wall, then sending in studio manager Jay Messina to fumble his way through the crustaceans' furious pincers. It highlights a childishness which has served Aerosmith well over the years, as the innuendo-laden "Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)" reminds us tonight.
If they sometimes feel like they need a rest, it's hardly surprising. The Cocked, Locked, Ready To Rock tour was preceded by protracted rumours that Tyler was about to retire, and even talk that Aerosmith might replace him with Lenny Kravitz (arguably an even more disastrous idea than Mick Hucknall fronting the Faces).
Thankfully, Tyler's back in the saddle, romping up the catwalk in silver lycra flares for "Love in an Elevator". (There aren't many bands who, when wondering how to give the start of their show a lift, can go for the literal option.)
It's often said that hooking up with Aerosmith helped to break Run DMC – and rap in general – into the mainstream, but in Europe the opposite was true. Prior to "Walk This Way", most Brits couldn't name an Aerosmith song with a pistol pressed to their temples. Indeed, they aren't even credited on the seven-inch.
To us, therefore, they're a phenomenon of the late 1980s/early 90s, by which time they were already endearingly ragged old tarts, their revival powered by those Alicia Silverstone-vehicle videos. Tonight, it's one of those songs – more than "Walk This Way" – that will live in this writer's memory. "Cryin'" is the ultimate tears-in-your-beer rock ballad, and I scream along, like the rest of the 02, with no irony whatsoever. You can giggle at Tyler and Perry as hard as you'd giggle at Tap's Tufnel and St Hubbins, but when they can pull a song as great as that out of the bag, who's having the last laugh?
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