Monday 6 February 2012

Queer (as Queen) at The Pipeline - 4 February 2012


There’s a weird atmosphere in London. The weather forecasters have promised an icy apocalypse for later in the night. From the tone of the warnings it is not clear whether we will get one inch of snow and some minor disruption, or whether this is indeed the end of the world and any poor souls caught outside will have to devour each other like members of the Donner Party.

I decide to risk it.

This venue is new to me. The Pipeline is a lavishly designed spacious and fun spot just off Bishopsgate. I like everything about the place, from the row of vintage pinball machines to a pool area which doubles as a shrine to Lemmy from Motorhead.

It seems quite empty in here – until you head downstairs to the space where the bands will play. It is heaving and hot and happening. My colleagues and I simultaneously double the average age of the clientele and halve the trendiness of the place just by walking through the door.

Tonight’s show is being presented by the good folks at Japan Underground. What a world this is that has such people in it. There are fashionistas and cosplayers (respect to the dude in full Kick-Ass regalia). The place is full of the vibrant and the beautiful and us.

The advertised support act is unable to make it, so their place is amply filled by a solo set from Haruna of No Cars.

Her performance takes post modernism to multiple levels. She is a Japanese girl aware of, and deliberately playing up to, the Western image of Japanese cuteness. The songs are faux-simple but razor sharp.

‘Tuna Tuna Tuna’ references both the Japanese love of delicious fish and the guilt that the rest of the world tries to lay on them for eating it. ‘Funny Farm’ (dedicated to Adam Ant) is about mental illness and would probably be offensive if it were not couched in such jokey, comic fashion.

In a nod to the headliners, Haruna gives us a snatch of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ on a recorder. It’s a great set, particularly as she was called upon to fill in at the last minute.

There’s a huge cheer as Queer, aka Japan’s top Queen tribute act take to the stage. They kick off with ‘We Are The Champions’, here speeded up to an almost punk velocity.

By the very nature of the beast, a tribute act is able to play hits all the way. It is amazing how much Queen we all know word for word.

The singer is soon stripped to the waist and employing some of Freddie Mercury’s call and response routines to interact with the crowd, who are well up for it and prepared to join in with anything.

We bawl along to ‘Under Pressure’. We join in with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, only to be thrown when the band unexpectedly deliver the whole of ‘Killer Queen’ midway through the song.

And so the evening progresses. It’s as hot and sweaty and we’re having a whale of a time.

The encore features a classical arrangement of the middle part of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ on tape. This is accompanied by a male dancer who flits around the stage in a kimono. He gradually disrobes as he goes until he is down to his underwear.

The band then come crashing in on the final part of the song and dancer and singer, both semi-naked, hug and kiss.

The best song of the night is a euphoric rip through ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’. It’s a crowded tumult of flying limbs, inflatable guitars and snogging.

Leaving the venue I find London whited out. I head off as impromptu snowball fights break out. Don’t stop me now cos I’m having a good time…

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