The Scissor Sisters aren't a band - at least, not in the conventional sense. They're a sequinned spectacle, a cabaret act or, as they would have it, "a goddam freak show". With their song "Comfortably Numb", an audacious Bee Gees-style overhaul of Pink Floyd's deadly-serious epic, currently in the Top 20, they're clearly in the mood for celebration, and tonight's crowd needs little encouragement.
High camp and retro disco is the Scissor Sisters' shtick, and even the most cynical onlooker would have to admit, they do it very well. At first glance, they look like a cross between The Village People and the cast of Taboo. The two lead singers, Jake Spears, modestly dressed in cropped leather jacket and what looks like a desiccated ferret across his shoulder, and Ana Matronic, a glamour puss in a revealing satin bustier, make an exuberant double act, like the Fred Schneider and Cindy Wilson of the B-52's, or Kenny Everett and Cleo Rocos.
The band emerged last year from New York's flamboyant performance art scene, the same one that gave us the now-elusive electroclash act Fischerspooner. They write songs with titles such as "Tits on the Radio" and "Filthy/Gorgeous" and, in their disco-dolly moments, sound like The Bee Gees, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Donna Summer all rolled into one. There's a clear debt to Elton John, too, and not just in the furry stole paraded by Spears which, had his hero clapped eyes on it, might easily have ended up as a hairpiece. It's customary for a band as kitsch as the Scissor Sisters to tell us they're deeply serious. Like The Darkness, they have claim to be in the thrall of one of the least fashionable genres in pop history, in their case Seventies and early Eighties AOR. Also like The Darkness, their energy is infectious and they know how to keep a crowd entertained. Spears' dancing is Liza Minnelli on amphetamine overdrive while Matronic is sex on legs, playing the maracas as if auditioning for a porn flick.
For all the Scissor Sisters' garishness and sexual innuendo, there's an unexpected substance to their songs. "Return to Oz" is a grim ballad about the horrors of crystal meth, and "Take Your Mama Out" is about telling your parents that you're gay. They can muster a decent tune, too. With their rocking choruses and hip-shaking grooves, almost any of the songs on their self-titled debut could be a single.
It's possible that heterosexual men with alphabeticised record collections won't see eye to eye with these cheeky New Yorkers and, yes, there's a strong whiff of novelty about them. But why can't pop music be fun? If the fate of Fischerspooner is anything to go on, the Scissor Sisters won't be around for long so let's enjoy them while we can.
Touring until 3 April