Metronomy and Portmanteau at the Louisiana – 04/03/08

So Portmanteau opened.

If you want to associate a word with a performance, ‘Confusion’ wouldn’t be many artists first choice.  But then, if you’re going to accompany yourselves with a video screen of owls, post-modern RAF imagery, a statement in favour of nuclear energy and …Fabs, then you probably know you’ll be taking people out of their comfort zone.

But it was all good; I was genuinely confused by what I saw, what I was supposed to be thinking, and whether I was just too musically illiterate to be allowed to pass judgment.  The crowd, I felt, gave them more or less fuck all to work with, which was a little harsh.  I think that’s just what happens when people have to work the next day and can’t drink as much as they’d like to.  A set at Timbuk2 or Thekla on a Friday?  Much more suited.

Accordingly, this was all followed by Metronomy, and, sadly, this turned out to spark exactly the expected change in the crowd; cheeriness.  It wasn’t really possible to feel awe in a room with a flaky ceiling, super-glued sound dampening and a bar straight out of Only Fools and Horses.  And no one was really moving enough to mosh in a particular fashion.  Watching 3 men with guitars, keyboards and one melodica , the best comparison is probably this time I wandered into this strange dutch art-space in Amsterdam, full of stuff like big shaking balls, crazy lights, and other distinctly arty things.  Like watching a musical museum piece.

It was one strange ‘performance’.  The three members of Metronomy (Joseph Mount, Gabriel Stebbing, Oscar Cash) hold an alien aura around them, something of a cross between the Hives and a trio of Dior models; all willowy and black.  The surreal glowy orbs on their chests added a splash of ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ too.

On the topic of these lights, Mount has been quoted as saying “I’m totally aware that some people hate it but equally I think some people enjoy it just for the fact that it’s a bit of fun”.  A comment on their music itself really.  A continuous half-way house between punk, ‘The 8 Bit Scene’ (or rather, today’s new meaningless genre-label),  and electro, it can be difficult to really keep a hold of what you’re listening to with any of their released tracks.

The saving grace was that with 6 instruments on stage already, there wasn’t any room for falling back on bleep-blip-bloop magic, which kept them firmly grounded in the alternative/softcore-punk arena.  Or indeed Acid Punk, as one genre-field holds it.  So it was much better from the off.  Ever though they occasionally fell on their backing tracks for the purpose of a bit of showmanship and performance.  One man’s showmanship isanothers mindless-crowd-pleasing, but I know which one I am.

It wasn’t difficult to see what was getting the best response.  Radio Ladio was beautiful – especially the arm pumping superman antics that yes, meant they let go of their instruments completely.  Black Eye Burnt Thumb was chaotically charming when preformed right in front of you, and they were so clearly aware of that!  And then they dropped You Could Easily Have Me as a farewell track.  Or rather, played it, enjoyed the reaction, and played it again (“And now, exactly the same song as you just heard…”).  The crowd was there on a Tuesday night, with work in the morning, and were fairly aggressive about demanding the hits, pure and simple.  So yes, they had little choice really.  But nicely handled.

They were reveling in their role as headliner.  They’ve fought a long road to get where they are, supporting everyone from Justice to CSS and Kate Nash, and, be in in the small 1st floor room of an out of center pub, they were finally playing to a crowd there to see them, not one they needed to impress.  It was a thank you, above all else, and I’d love to see it all again.

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