Film star, Dogstar, but hardly a rock star
Sunday 21 July 1996
That's how Dogstar would like to see it, anyway. A celluloid sex god in their ranks, and, on Tuesday at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, they never once acknowledged it. The singer/guitarist betrayed how deeply he is in denial by commenting blithely: "We are honestly flattered that this many people showed up." Sorry to break this to you, but your bass player could have staged an hour-long kazoo recital of "The Birdy Song" and he wouldn't have sold one ticket less.
Keanu colluded in the charade, and, in his most challenging acting role to date, pretended to be just one of the guys. He was dressed for the part, all in black with short, tufty hair and a patchy beard, but the audience, 95 per cent female and possibly the big sisters of Boyzone's crowd (also reviewed below), didn't buy it. If Reeves raised his arm, his head or his eyebrow, or did his dopey lope, a la Bill and Ted, he was rewarded with an orgasmic scream and a pair of knickers thrown at his feet. To the audience's rightful dismay, the drummer was the only band member who took off his shirt.
The venue reached a disingenuous compromise by printing the names of all three band members on the tickets, as if we might read them and exclaim: "My God! Did you know that Bret Domrose and Rob Mailhouse were in this band?!" It only made matters worse. I ended up feeling sorry for Domrose, who would obviously like to be accepted as a genuine indie rocker, and who, with another bassist, might just manage it. There are, after all, worse post-Nirvana bands in America. Domrose and Mailhouse know that without the star, they're just ... Dog. But with the star, they're never going to be heard for any reason except the wrong one.
The star himself used to tell interviewers that his bass-playing was rubbish (lately he's kept quiet on that score, funnily enough). In fact it's reasonable, and his amateurism is given away only by a frown of concentration; he looks as if he's just graduated to a bass that doesn't have numbers painted on the frets. Ironically, it's the drummer who can't play. I'm told he's an actor, too, but you've got to be more famous than he is before you can get away with being so unmusical.
Unless, of course, you're in a Boy Band. Last weekend saw a bleak chapter in the history of that particular genre. On The Chart Show, there was the video for Gary Barlow's first solo single - a black-and-white video, as if you wouldn't have guessed. Top forensic musicologists have been working round the clock ever since to discern a melody in the Ivor Novello award-winner's latest composition.
And if that weren't enough of a blow to the world of hormones and harmonies, Boyzone established their egregious inability to fill Take That's dancing shoes at Wembley Arena. They goosestepped on stage in dark glasses, silver firemen's anoraks, and red Westwood-style punk trousers (yes, it was two tours ago that Take That began a show like that), and it was all downhill from there. The humdrum choreography, an amateur dramatic amalgam of "Springtime For Hitler" and Riverdance, had the Boyz scurrying and skipping around like big girlz' blouses. They climbed up the metal stairs, stood on the stairs, and, er, climbed down the stairs again, thereby exposing the absence of creativity in both their staging and their choreography in one fell swoop.
At least they were consistent in their blandness. Once they'd taken off their anoraks, there were no costumes. There were no hydraulics or explosions or special effects. Any decent tunes that slipped through their quality-control filter were dealt with mercilessly by their hellish, helium-stoked nasal twangs. The most prolonged piece of banter came when Steve, or maybe Mikey, or possibly Shane, announced: "Tonight is a very proud moment for us, and because of you, we wouldn't be here." Quite. They should stick to advertising Sugar Puffs.
The audacious inventiveness that went into Take That concerts sometimes overtook the capabilities of the band - their rendition of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" lurches into mind, much as I wish it wouldn't - but Boyzone don't run the same risk. They'll never try to imitate Nirvana. Imitating Take That gives them enough trouble as it is.
Tina Turner has retired so often from the live arena, and indeed the live stadium, that she should change her name to Tina Returner. And as she can't be short of a million quid or two, it's a mystery why she keeps coming back. At least, it was until a few seconds into her two-hour spectacular at Sheffield's Don Valley Stadium on Thursday, when even a sceptic would have been struck by the impression that Turner was as thrilled to be there as any of the other 52,000 people present. Aged 56 going on 20, she radiated gleeful exuberance. After the first number, "Whatever You Want", she blew us kisses, grinned like a Cheshire lioness, and laughed, "Oh yeah! Oh right!" as if she were the first rock star ever to utter the words, and as if, what's more, she were uttering them for the first time herself. Perhaps it's too convenient to dwell on her difficult past - the mean years with Ike, and the lean years that followed them - but you can't help but think that it may account for her relish in every moment now.
If you're after dignified mystique, you're at the wrong show. When Turner clumped along with her three dancing babes, shrink-wrapped in plastic dresses, she bore a worrying resemblance to Dame Edna. Even this is a part of her charm. She's happy to blow her cool if it will hot things up. "I'm going to do something I don't normally do on stage," she chortled after one exhausting romp. "I'm going to sit down and sing for you."
And so began that staple of Nineties' stadium gigs, the unplugged set. It's never made more sense than here. Who'd have thought that "Steamy Windows" would justify its existence with the addition of a bluesy slide- guitar? Some of the tepid material from her new album, Wildest Dreams (Parlophone), was not worthy of the tar-tonsilled soul shouter, but there was plenty tonight that was, from her early R&B standards, "Proud Mary" and "Nutbush City Limits", to roughed-up versions of her essence-of-Eighties anthems, "What's Love Got to Do With It" and "The Best".
It's here that I should congratulate the cameramen who homed in on every home-made "Simply the Best" T-shirt and banner in the crowd during the latter song. This virtuoso use of the video screens was topped only when clips from GoldenEye and Mad Max III were transmitted during the apposite theme tunes, and particularly on "River Deep, Mountain High", the night's first oldie. Images of her and the band are relayed to the giant screens in black and white, and speckled with fake scratches as if they're archive footage. Then you double-take: genuine Sixties' footage is spliced in. Apart from Turner's taste in wigs - she currently has Dougal, the dog from The Magic Roundabout, resting on her head - not a lot has changed since those days. She still looks ageless, she still wears short, spangly dresses, and she still sings her big heart out. I hope she continues to do so for another few decades yet. Many happy returns.
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