Pop: A step up on the staircase to stadiums

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The Independent Culture


ELECTRICITY SIZZLING on stage, the bass guitar at full throttle, the bar unreachable, the toilets a nightmare. That is a gig. A concert, on the other hand, has the smell of washed hair, a comfy seat and the Range Rover in the car park. Dingwalls, in Camden, falls between the two.

Since The Monarch and The Falcon pubs began hosting new bands, it is no longer London's main experimental venue and its bright decor and credit card hotline are concessions to concert ambience. Nevertheless, it is a strange choice of venue for a band who have had hits all over the world.

It is almost two years since Alisha's Attic's acclaimed debut album and a catchy, neurotic chorus with "I Am, I Feel". Four Top 20 singles later and the female songwriting duo with weird lyrics had only to break America to get the same frenzied accolades as Alanis Morissette. The Dagenham sisters get as far as Japan. In comes Dingwalls. This is an early showing of the second album, and the stadium concert is still in sight.

Alisha's Attic have ditched old-hand producer Dave Stewart (half of Eurythmics and architect of Shakespeare's Sister) for cutting-edge New Yorker Mark Plati (David Bowie, Dee Lite and Junior Vasquez).

Barefoot dancing, exotic attire and other ephemera of Morissette-mania are gone. Which means nothing distracts from their unique vocals. Alisha's Attic aim to fall between the same stools as Dingwalls; different, yet commercially viable.

On this showing the fall is an unfortunate accident. The thirtysomethings in the audience, passive and slack-jawed, look as though they have not been to a concert in 10 years, never mind a gig (unless old faves, perhaps Terry Hall or Edwyn Collins). It is a tough crowd to play, especially to introduce new material. Nevertheless, at the end of each song they cheered as die-hard fans, even dancing to the original hits.

But the sound was poor, the backing band faceless and the atmosphere lacklustre. And when Karen said the heat was melting her make-up, it was clear that Alisha's Attic weren't suited to gig dynamics.

Which is a shame, because Alisha's Attic are perfect Sunday morning music, to relax to or listen to while vacuuming. Ronnie Scott's tables and atmospheric lighting would be a better venue.

Failing that, they should engage a few high-energy covers, keep the hits and be a great wedding band.

On the evidence of this gig, they may be available.