Rock : Thrusts R Us with Wembley's neighbourhood crotch
Kelly rubs himself against every available surface like an embarrassing dog
Sunday 08 January 1995
We're still screaming when a film begins on a screen in front of the stage. With Terminator-style camera angles and graphics, it shows the Chicago dude caged in a hi-tech jail, stripped to his undies, and guarded by a female SWAT team who no doubt moonlight as models. They won't release him until he tones down his act. "Have you any idea what your music does to a woman like myself?" trembles one.
Unsurprisingly, Kelly escapes, and is soon before us, stomping around to a booming funky beat. At least, I think it's Kelly. He comes on with two rappers with the same black outfits, dark glasses and shaven heads, so, as someone sitting near me says: "Hemight be at home for all we know." He is joined by a band and three lingeried women who writhe like clockwork sex-toys: robocopulators. If they're not grabbing their own privates they're grabbing someone else's.
Kelly's songs would have his musical kin Prince (as he used to be known) advising him to tone it down a bit. You don't have to be Christopher Ricks to interpret the lyrics of "Bump n' Grind", "Sex Me", or the especially recondite "I Like the Crotch on You": "What's going on inside my pants I can't explain," he croons, "so bring your body over here, baby." And leave your brain over there, presumably.
Last year's hit single, "She's Got That Vibe", pumps up the pace, but otherwise, despite the prison warden's opinion, the actual music is nugatory. The band keeps vamping, stroking jazzy chords over a swingbeat backing, while Kelly talks to the audience.Although he is quite a hoofer, tonight he doesn't dance a step. Instead, he continually asks the crowd to do all the work: to sing, to raise their hands, to make some goddamn noise, and to state, in no uncertain terms, whether they want him, whether they're feeling freaky, and whether they'll meet him round the back afterwards.
Kelly's1993 album, which has just gone gold in Britain, is called 12 Play, and the show embodies the theme precisely: foreplay after foreplay after foreplay. (The record sleeve, incidentally, bears the intriguing dedication: "To my homie and good friend Tony Blair - page me later, nigger." I think we should be told.) From start to finish he is pelvic thrusting, stroking himself, fishing around in his trousers, and rubbing himself against every available surface like your neighbour's embarras sing dog.
This is what being a teen idol is all about. He is the prince of poseurs, the Big Tease. It is so deliberately over-the-top that it's funny - he even wears a jacket with "horny" emblazoned on the back, as if we needed reminding - but it does get monotonous: Take That may tease, but they dance and sing as well. This is like the performance of "Like a Virgin" in In Bed with Madonna, but stretched over 90 minutes. And it is foreplay without a climax. Maybe he obeyed the warden's demands to clean up after all, because the promised Jim Morrison-esque display does not occur. Kelly ends the concert by proudly showing us his pants, before shuffling off with his trousers round his ankles. He'll never find anyone who loves him as much as he loves himself.
The next time someone informs you that pop music is just shouting and noisy guitars you can prove them wrong by taking them to see the Voodoo Queens. Their music is mostly shouting and noisy guitars, true, but it incorporates those other vital pop elements: humour, style (in the neo-handbag-glitz form of pig-tails and silver leggings), and ferocious energy. These were the attributes which earned the all-woman four-piece a booking on John Peel's show after one gig, and which sent their second single, "Kenuwee Head" to number one in the indie charts.
They were vital attributes at the Camden Palace on Tuesday night. The show starts at 12.30am in the freezing cold morning. Anjali Bhatia wishes us "a happy voodoo New Year", and the band crash into a punk set as raucous as you can get while still being tuneful. Bhatia yells lyrics as querulous as a more genuine, less irritating Shampoo: "I should have dumped you when you said I looked fat in that dress". Alongside such manic classics as "I'm Not Bitter, I Just Want to Kill You", and the vul nerable ballad "Neptune" ("I drank that vodka neat / I couldn't act discreet / I was further gone than Neptune") there are at least two songs not on their album, Chocolate Revenge (Too Pure). One of them appears to be about Keanu Reeves, and rhymes "the most bodacious boy you ever saw" with "his picture on your fridge door". The other posits that Ice T's sexism results from his lack of two organs, one of which is a brain.
The Voodoos' record company biography declares them "born to be famous" on the evidence of their early success, but they are too radio-hostile to become much better known than they are now. This is a shame - for two reasons. First, because they deserve to be heard, and second, because it would mean I could see them live without having to stay up so late.
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