ROCK / Camp without the kicks

THIS WHOLE pop music thing has been a terrible mistake. Classical is best. Nigel Kennedy is a lovable rogue. The strident harmonies and frantic kitsch of

The B-52s leaves the mind prey to all manner of dangerous delusions. The band have been projecting their brand of determinedly zany Southern camp for so long you'd think it would come naturally, but on the last of their four nights at the Hammersmith Apollo it seems like very hard work. The seabed stage-set is borrowed from Walt Disney's The Little Mermaid, but the show is decidedly lacking in animation.

The only person onstage who seems to be enjoying herself is guest vocalist Julee Cruise. The former David Lynch henchwoman is standing in for founder member Cindy Wilson, who has wisely opted to retire. She revels in the chance to show there is more to her than that ethereal Twin Peaks warble. Unfortunately the belting, hip-thrusting abandon she brings to her new role only throws into sharper relief the world-weary demeanour of the band's two longer-established frontpeople. Fred Schneider is the man they call the singing dachshund, but his bark has lost its bite. Kate Pierson still dances like she's underwater, but she no longer seems to enjoy it. Even the dancers in Charles and Di masks who parade onstage during 'Roam' cannot build up a convincing head of jollity.

Dolly Parton grew up so poor her family ate soup flavoured with rocks. Today's country divas have disadvantages of their own to overcome. Washington DC's Mary-Chapin Carpenter has triumphed over the considerable handicap of a double-barrelled first name. For one afternoon and one night only she evicts Buddy from the Victoria Palace Theatre to offer British fans a rare glimpse of a platinum-tinged talent.

Carpenter is a jaunty character with considerable presence. She sidles about the stage, occasionally playing up to smiling band members. Her manner is warm almost to the point of schmaltz, but she marshals her musical troops with cool confidence. There's courtly bass-player J T Brown; flexible honkytonk keyboard man Jon Carroll, whose ponytail has a life of its own; and hang-dog guitarist and producer John Jennings, whose fretwork is impeccable, even when his guitar is held up, Hendrix-style, round the back of his neck.

There's only one star in this show. Carpenter's third album, Come On Come On, has put her almost in the Garth Brooks league. There is a touch of his blandness about her on record too, but not in person. The gutsy twirl of Carpenter's voice is equally well suited to self-reliant, mid- tempo stompers like 'I Take My Chances' and breathy ballads such as 'The Moon And St Christopher'. Her concise songwriting is full of humour - 'I Feel Lucky' jokingly objectifies new country peers Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yoakam - and sometimes there is a harder message too. The caustic 'He Thinks He'll Keep Her' dares to raise the question of payment for housework - not an issue country music has traditionally broached. The mellifluous encore 'Passionate Kisses' features inspirational support act Lucinda Williams, whose voice contains those elements of darkness and danger which Carpenter's misses, but who lacks her knack for bending a crowd to her will.

Henry Rollins could bend a crowd with his bare hands if necessary, but such measures are not called for during his spoken-word show at the Astoria Theatre. It's not just Rollins's terrifyingly well- muscled upper body and manic stare that tend to make people respond to what he does. His vulnerability is equally disarming. This man might have a bar-code tattooed on the back of his neck, but individuality is his watchword.

He talks for two and a half hours without notes and without hesitation. It's a measured, urbane stream of reminiscenses and anecdotes; some funny, some tragic, the odd one slightly boring. The material changes every night, which renders all the more impressive Rollins's ability to get back to the point of the story after digressions that would have made Ronnie Corbett fall off his chair. There's something unnerving about the smoothness of his delivery, given the wild fluctuations in the tone of his material. One minute he's laughing about Paul Simon and Edie Brickell's newborn child - 'How much do I have to pay that kid never to pick up a guitar?' - the next he's recounting in gruesome detail the story of his best friend's murder. His life is much easier to listen to than it can be to live.

(Photograph omitted)

News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
    How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

    How to find gold

    Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
    Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

    Not born in the USA

    Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
    10 best balsamic vinegars

    10 best balsamic vinegars

    Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
    Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy