[Review] MEN @ Bush Hall, London (07/06/11)

June 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Walking into Bush Hall ten minutes before the headlining band are due to take the stage and finding the room a third full doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that a heady night of exhiliration is ahead of you. Thankfully, the people who made up that third didn’t seem to care, singing to Michael Jackson songs playing over the PA, and dancing energetically before Brooklyn’s MEN have broken out even a single beat. The room fills up a little more before JD Samson, Ginger Brooks Takahashi and Michael O’Neill burst onto the stage, looking full of energy and ready to show London a good time.

‘Life’s Half Price’ is the opener of debut album Talk About Body, and tonight’s set. From there on the night is full of animated dance moves and chanted lyrics. Most of the album’s tracks are played, and received well by a crowd who make up in vigour what they lack in numbers. Each track is received warmly, with ‘Who Am I To Feel So Free’, ‘Off Our Backs’ and ‘Credit Card Babies’ receiving the loudest cheers as they begin. The songs themselves translate well from record to a live setting; the bass is heavier, the drum machine louder, and O’Neill plays guitar with a skill that wasn’t so clearly audible in the recorded material. Most of all, the energy levels are upped, and the band look as though they are enjoying themselves, even if the room isn’t quite as bursting at the seams as they may have liked. JD Samson jokes around with her band mates, high kicking her way through songs, and pulling out a hat in the form of a cardboard house that she dons for the end tracks.

If  the balance between musical and lyrical content was a fine one on the record, it seems that the music won out tonight. Lyrics that reference gay couples trying for babies, the demands of war, and queer individuals being questioned by the government are all still clearly heard, but take a back seat to the thumping drum machine, and the animated moves of JD Samson.

The last track is a cover of Bikini Kill’s ‘Double Dare Ya’, and although many of the crowd cheer as Samson asks if they know who she’s talking about, there’s a feeling that it’s more to appease her than actual joy at hearing a song from debatably the most famous band of the riot grrl movement. Either way, the song goes down well and the night ends on a sweaty and euphoric high. If MEN came to London to make us dance our asses off, they succeeded. But next time, I expect more from YOU London, give a member of Le Tigre the proper reception she deserves!!

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