Beth Ditto and her band bring their pop-punk style to Shepherd’s Bush Empire and give us a quick lesson in queer culture.
We made our way to Shepherd’s Bush Empire last week to see if Gossip could bring a bit more bite to their glossy synth-pop new-release, A Joyful Noise. The band, fronted by Beth Ditto and featuring Brace Paine on guitars and Hannah Billie on drums, may sound more pop than over on the record, but they perform with all the vigour of their indie-rock debut days.
The venue instantly came to life with the arrival of frontwoman Beth Ditto in a black and white patterned dress to the drum-beat of ‘Men In Love’ and ‘Love Long Distance’. Starting out quite restrained, the exuberance of the song, and that of Beth’s performance, came pouring out during the chorus, with Ditto playfully bounding across the stage, losing herself in the song’s own bounce. The band’s latest album A Joyful Noise has received a mixed critical reception, but feels full of life in a live setting.
The pop-y synths of ‘Move In The Right Direction’ got the entire floor dancing, the work work’ chant of ‘Get a Job’ quickly shifted to a tongue-in-cheek ‘werk’ as it was repeated by the ecstatic crowd, while ‘Into The Wild’ was a beautifully sobering moment amidst the madness. They stood strong alongside cuts from Gossip’s previous albums, despite their sleeker pop sound. Though gay men were obviously in the minority compared to the large lesbian fanbase, ‘Men in Love’ received one of the best reactions of the night with its simple, but oh-so effective chant; ‘na na na-na, men in love!’.
Ditto introduced the band’s seminal hit ‘Standing in the Way of Control’, as being the most important song that they’ve created, thanking it for everything it’s allowed the band to do and announcing she doesn’t mind that it’s used to define them as an act because the message still rings true. The crowd’s reaction to the frenetic opening bars was electric though the rendition itself felt somewhat subdued and drained of its usual life.
Beth and the band returned to the stage for a phenomenal encore of ‘Heavy Cross’, where she vanished from the stage only to reappear in the middle of the excited crowd. Things all ended up getting a bit strange, with Beth in just her black shapewear making her way to the first floor balcony to meet her friend Irene and to introduce British post-punk outfit, The Raincoats. She awkwardly dragged a nearby Perez Hilton to her side so that he could thank them for establishing modern queer culture. There was a gawky acoustic rendition of Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’, before the lights went on and the crowd joined in for a sing-along to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’. It sounds weird, and in person it was even more so, but somehow it all worked as a satisfying end to a solid queer pop-punk performance.