“I can feel your beats in my vagina,” Beth Ditto informs her drummer Hannah Blilie. “Because the room is so small... welcome to the Beth Ditto Comedy Hour, everyone! I’m here all week.”
Part of the reason Arkansas punk-soul queen Ditto has become such a alternative pop icon is that not only does she say what others wouldn’t dare, she’ll quite happily say it at wall-shaking volume in front of a huge crowd. Her chatty uber-confidence is of a oneness with the uplifting power of her voice - as she puts it “It’s my job to make you feel better about yourselves”. If the jokes occasionally threaten to take equal billing with the songs tonight, you can let her off - this is a close-quarters, fans-and-friends show where Ditto is constantly calling out to faces in the front row of her “family reunion”.
As such, the atmosphere is high, and hides the blushes of some of the weaker moments of patchy new album ‘A Joyful Noise’, produced by Xenomania’s Brian Higgins. While the unfussy disco pop melodics of ‘Move In The Right Direction’ and ‘Melody Emergency’ have an glossy charm, Ditto’s voice stronger than ever before, the band’s attempt to capture the moody dark atmosphere of late, heartbreak Abba on the likes of ‘Into The Wild’ and ‘Casualties Of War’ fall flat next to the stomping righteousness of oldies like ‘Yr Mangled Heart’ and ‘8th Wonder’. Recent single ‘Perfect World’ meanwhile, takes the former underground figureheads a step too far into charging the mainstream, a schlocky soft rock power ballad a little too self-indulgent for its own good.
Ditto, though, is on defiant form. “We’re not dead yet, whatever anyone tells ya!” she yells before a furiously intense ‘Heavy Cross’. When they close the encore, inevitably, with ‘Standing In The Way Of Control’ the soon-to-be-married Ditto goes off on a rant about same-sex marriage, the song’s original topic, back in the headlines of late. “True love prevails, hatred will not win... if it takes us 50 years, 100 years we will succeed. We believe in the goodness of people...”
And with that, we’re reminded that a few duff tracks aside, whether she’s going pop or selling out or just having a laugh, Ditto remains one of the best not only at making you feel good about yourself, but making you feel part of something important. No badoom-tish required.
Love Long Distance
Move In The Right Direction
Four Letter Word
Men In Love
Get A Job
Yr Mangled Heart
Into The Wild
Casualties Of War
Standing In The Way Of Control