In the spirit of honesty and full disclosure, I admit that my desire to see Scissor Sisters in concert was not based on love of their music. In fact, I had dismissed them as nothing more than a clever and well-executed melding of Elton John and the Bee Gees. No matter how often I listened to them, I heard either or both of those influences without any discernable additional embellishments (except for various other 70's era white soul boy falsettos making fleeting guest appearances). But, hey. if you're going to be a cover band, there's something to be said for not only doing it well, but doing it within the context of original material. I mean I love Oasis, even though they admittedly owe most of their creations to the Beatles' songbook. And, let's not even get started on The Essential Madonna…
It was because of my husband's interest in them that my ears perked up when the luscious Brandywine showed up at the McMullan studio to retrieve some prints of himself and longtime companion Brenda A. Go-Go. Brandy asked if I was going to see the Scissor Sisters' film. I thought my husband might want to see it, so Brandywine got in touch w/ someone who might get us in. Happily, that someone, Peter Albertelli, was a super nice guy and invited us. Unluckily, my husband was busy. When I wrote to say we couldn't attend, I mentioned that we would love to see them when they next performed in NYC.
I wanted to check them out because I honestly WANT to LIKE things or, at the very least, know that I've given them and myself every chance to form a rational opinion of why I don't. I have no problem with changing my mind or discovering I'm wrong about something. In music, some acts are best served by being seen live, even if their recordings don't exactly make you want to light up a joint & crank up the volume. Trust me… Billy Joel and Rod Stewart slay live. Do I buy their records? Maybe three decades ago… or more…
Happily, Scissor Sisters blew into New York soon thereafter and, after being submitted for approval by Peter, we were granted tickets by their record company. Came the night, the hubby and I went over to Manhattan Center (AKA The Moonies' Place). Once inside, we were ushered into an elevator and dropped off on an upper floor I never knew existed.
We found ourselves in a beautiful small ballroom. The main floor was comfortably filled and the two balconies had a few people lounging about looking at the main floor. I thought there would have been a greater turnout for a hometown band made good (in England). What made the sparseness even more surprising was that we had arrived just around the time the Scissor Sisters were to go on. I don't really have the patience to sit (or stand) through most headliners, let alone an opening act. Of course, for all the opening acts I have suffered through, there have been the exceptions to their general ho-humness. Earlier this year, we went to see Kasabian at Webster Hall and their opening act, the Danish group Mew, blew them off the stage even before they took it (musically-speaking, of course)(as far as I know…). And then there was the time… long long ago, in a galaxy known as The Seventies, when I saw the Ramones and Van Halen open for Black Sabbath. Each group was in their prime, so it was total perfection.
But, back to the present…
Whoever was at this show had obviously come to PARTY. And just about everyone there was very GAY (what a surprise!). Though there were a couple of guys all glittered up in honor of Jake Shears, mostly everyone else was more Preppy than Hipster. And everyone was in great spirits. There was a great energy to the place.
Onstage, a DJ spun one house anthem after another. Everything sounded alike. No one responded until he suddenly switched from Divas shrieking about how much they had been hurt or how much they were going to inflict hurt on another to 80's dancefloor classics. With that, the crowd… for there was one by then… started grinding and shaking.
Finally the place got so crowded, everyone began to jockey for viewing positions. A beautiful boyish girl sweetly asked me if I could see and kept trying to coax me over to where she was standing because of my lack of height and the abundance of it on the guy who had planted himself directly in front of me. That ALWAYS happens, doesn't it? Why do tall and hefty men ALWAYS go right up front and block everyone else's view when they could just stand in the back and still see everything? When I was in Japan, I was the tall & hefty one and I'm proud to report that I showed excellent consideration for my fellow crowd members and watched every event I attended from the back of the room. It's not such a difficult concept to embrace.
As it turned out, the only REAL problem I had in the audience was that the trim on my jacket kept getting caught on the fishnets of the chubby boy behind me. The vibe was so upbeat and positive, the only result of our never-ending entanglement was a fit of giggles from each of us as we disengaged.
Finally, Scissor Sisters appeared on the stage. They were astounding. I don't know if it's because of their relentless touring or if they just had the goods to begin with, but whatever the reason, if you don't go to see them when they hit your town, you are a fool.
Most likely their strength is a result of the sum of their uniformly excellent parts. Each member of the group is a terrific musician. The biggest surprise for me was how important Ana Matronic is to the vocals. Whenever you see them on TV, the focus is so much on Jake Shears, you almost think she should be just slapping a tambourine as the backup chick singer. When you see them in person, you realize that she is as much the lead as Shears and the confusion is a result of the seamlessness of their vocal counterpoints. The guitarists really rock and are as tight with each other as Shears & Matronic. The keyboards were flawless and drummer Paddy Boom deserved all the attention lauded on him by Shears, who was quite giddy over Paddy's return to the band.
If I didn't know better, I would have thought that Shears' patter about the sadness of the recent closing of CBGB was silly bullshit coming from someone his age and with his obvious taste in music. When he then went into a fervent reminiscence of Manhattan's club history, citing clubs like Danceteria and Mudd Club as he explained to the crowd how people are always led to believe that they missed some great scene's heyday, I was totally flummoxed as to why he thought anyone in this audience had the faintest idea what he was going on about. Christ, I was a DJ at just about every club he mentioned and I couldn't grasp what his point was. Well, actually I did, but it didn't really matter…even to me.
There was one element to his soliloquy that was on the mark: His original mention of CBGB's closing. We had attended one of the shows during that last week and, despite the difference in that scene from this one, there was very much a shared spirit. The mosh pit that heaved about during the Bad Brains' show and the Rave-like energy that encompassed Scissor Sisters' audience had exactly the same tribal cohesiveness binding its particular participants. However, despite the fact that my personal taste in music is far closer to Punk than Disco, I'd much rather deal with grabby fishnets and tall muscle boys than bald angry jackboot-wearing thug wannabes and stage-diving fatties.
Both shows were a joy. And aren't they what this time of the year is all about: Something ends; something begins.
Have a happy one.