Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Queen Adreena @ Luminaire: 27 May 2008

Arriving at the venue, we find that a hard corps of fans have already taken up their positions at the very front of the stage. Knowing the proclivities of the main act, this is a dangerous place to be, but risk-taking and excitement is what this evening is all about.

The Luminaire stage set up is unnecessarily cluttered – there is a large pot plant on one side of the stage and a ridiculously low hanging chandelier on the other. I thought initially that these were props that had been placed there for a specific reason, but it transpires that they represent nothing more than hazards that the bands have to work around.

Four lads with Very Big Hair take to the stage and immediately start crashing into each other, flailing their instruments and screaming incoherently. These are Vile Imbeciles and, although they are entirely unburdened by anything identifiable as a tune, I rather take to them. Watching them lurch and smash about to a primitive, deconstructed blues rock and roll reminds me not so much of The Birthday Party, but rather the slew of bands that were influenced by Cave and co. I posit the Inca Babies as a possible reference point, although my companions are not convinced by the analogy.

Vile Imbeciles’ set is further enlivened by the antics of some members of the crowd, who are obviously practicing for the main act by engaging in simulated straight/lesbian/three way sex fantasies, involving much rubbing, pouting and snogging. I find myself strangely distracted from the band on stage…

When Katie Jane Garside and the rest of Queen Adreena teeter into view, it is a bit of a shock. Garside actually looks healthy; her usual skeletal corpse pallor replaced with what might even be a tan. She has taken the time to plait what seems to be part of a hedge through her hair, giving her the wild, dishevelled look of Ophelia in the Millais painting. She also has her trusty chair with her.

There is a wealth of new material tonight, but the Adreena template remains unaltered. Garside screams, squeals, writhes and flailing her way through a lacerating set while the rest of the band pose and thrash, occasionally getting caught up in her maelstrom.

She crouches on her chair, arms pleading toward the crowd (who are going ten types of mental all around her), her voice rising from a whisper to a scream and back again. She downs a bottle of wine, rubbing it lasciviously against her crotch. All good family entertainment.

In a fairer world, Katie-Jane Garside and her loyal performers would be lauded as one of British music’s great institutions. They have been titilating, scaring and delighting audiences for twenty years now and are still amongst the very best and intimidating live acts that I have ever come across. They cross boundaries between performance art and music that virtually no-one else gets anywhere near.

After a smash ‘n’ writhe clatter through ‘Pretty Like Drugs’ and other favourites, Katie Jane is left exposed, alone on stage, standing on her chair. She is vulnerable and also triumphant. The stage has been devastated (the plant in particular took a bashing), the audience is a fetid and sodden heap in front of her.

Queena Adreena are one of the most reliably exciting bands around. Go see them. Take lubricant.
(The picture at the top of this piece is a generic photo. Go to the Queen Adreena fan forum for some excellent ones of tonight's gig.)

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