Saturday, 14 May 2011

Atari Teenage Riot, Kap Bambino, FOE at Islington Academy - 12 May 2011

Atari Teenage Riot

I’m in the venue early to catch the only act that are tonight whom I have not experienced before. I’ve been promised great things.

FOE is the nom de pop of Hannah Clark, joined here this evening by two heads-down thrash guitarists and a drummer. The resulting sound is very far removed from her recorded work, which is mostly keyboard-driven.

The major appeal of FOE, to my ears at least, is her wonderful snotty and bratty voice. She doesn’t sing as such, but rather talks/raps in measured fashion over the wall of guitar noise. It works very well.

I had been prepared for songs such as ‘A Handsome Stranger Called Death’ and ‘Tyrant Song’ but it was only checking again later that I satisfy myself that she played them, so unexpected is this performance.

Clark hunches and slouches in a big black leather jacket emblazoned with her band’s name. You wouldn’t forget FOE even if it wasn’t spelled out.

Kap Bambino are a simple concept that is marvellously executed. Blonde haired singer Caroline Martial capers and screams, while Orion Bouvier stands behind a desk of electronic knick knacks and lays down an onslaught of rapid deafening trance beats.

They are the best band in the world at getting an audience going. Martial engages with the crowd at all times, waving her arms, bouncing up and down and ceaselessly skipping from side to side of the stage. Your eyes follow her and it’s like watching a tennis rally.

The energy that they whip up would power a Dreadnought. When a rare slower interlude occurs Martial merely spins round and round on the spot like a dervish before collapsing gracefully on the floor. Seconds later she is up and bouncing again, flinging herself into the crowd to be carried aloft through the throng. She never rests, she never misses a beat. It’s exhausting and magnificent.

If Kap Bambino are uplifting, headliners Atari Teenage Riot are as uncompromising and gruelling as ever. You’d expect nothing less.

ATR’s entire ninety minute set is played out under blinding strobe lights. Every song is essentially a three word anti-establishment slogan shouted over and over. Whenever there is a momentary lull, the words ‘Atari Teenage Riot’ are screamed out and a microphone extended to the crowd.

Subtle it ain’t, but they have always been like this – a punishing ordeal that would bring international outrage if perpetrated on the inmates at Guantanamo but which the audience here tonight class as entertainment. We’ve paid our money, we know what we’re getting.

Band leader Alec Empire looks a little less chiselled than in the past. In his black vest he stands centre stage and continually urges the crowd, forward, forward.

The enigmatic Nic Endo is much more evident than previously, leaving her music console to take lead vocals on roughly half the songs. Her face is a white mask of makeup, a bolt of lightning transecting her eye.

The third member of the team is CX Kidtronik, who tonight sports a giant pair of welder’s goggles with a red light strapped to the side. He is aiming for a futuristic Cylon effect but actually looks rather silly. He performs the MC role vacated by the death of Carl Crack, who sadly never came across a drug that he didn’t like.

Atari Teenage Riot are unrelenting. By the end of their set I’m feeling really disoriented and ill and I’m not the only one – there is a medic in attendance and he seems to be doing good business.

I stagger out at the end, deaf and dumbfounded. Atari Teenage Riot still bring the pain, but it has been Kap Bambino who were the real pleasure.

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