Did the Scissor Sisters pick the awful Syntax as support? I suspect not, because the leaden, unambitious sound and total lack of anything resembling fun were the antithesis of everything the headline act effortlessly provided. Syntax’s brief seems to be to approximate the sound of a James b-side remix from 1993, and nobody benefits from that.
Gleefully bouncing onto stage in ascending order of glam, the Scissor Sisters cut the kind of jib you expect of pan-sexual New York club fiends: all feather boas, jaunty hats and mascara. But beyond the attention they’ve garnered in the past few months is a joyous pop which manages to cram the nippy, incisive histrionics of Sparks into a blender with every great disco record of the last thirty years. And it made me want to dance. They throw the lethal double tap of debut single Laura and robo-Gibb stomp Tits on the Radio away one-third of the way into the set, demonstrating the confidence of a band that have the guts to dress like the thinner one out of Chas & Dave (Chas? Dave?), engage in ill-advised banter over British coin denominations and fully thieve the backing of Candi Staton’s You Got the Love for a dancefloor happy cover of Comfortably Numb.
The wholesale appropriation of the tiresome, bloated Pink Floyd non-classic into Saturday Night Fever by way of muscular arena techno proves the Scissor Sisters’ intentions: the weights have been cut and the furnace is set all the way up to eleven. Like all great and thus necessarily gay disco, they want to take you higher. They also prove that in disco, all drugs are good drugs. Well, while you’re on the way up, or until the drugs give you funny ideas . . .
They stop the dancing for a song that I believed was called Barry, a syrupy ballad replete with cocktail bar saxophone solo played so straight that I thought they were attempting to conjure the spirit of Mr Manilow. I bought the album the next day and it’s actually called Mary, so I’m not sure which denizen of bad cabaret they were channelling. On record it sounds like a cheap Robbie Williams, a combination creating a black hole of cheapness which threatens to swallow the record as it almost swallowed the show. The crowd tittered and the whole affair faltered, a palpable embarrassment in the air. It was a missed beat that the Scissor Sisters would do well to skip, because otherwise they put on one of the best performances I’ve been party to for months.
Copyright 2004 Nick Orwin