Electric Six's Dick Valentine might have changed his style, but he is still everything a frontman should be
Mental Deficiency are currently Belfast’s premier purveyors of aural Marmite. Like Roysta before them, they are lauded and reviled in equal measure.
Love them or hate them, tonight in the Spring & Airbrake in Belfast, they put on a great rock show. As the opening act, they plow through their set of chugging riffs and fiddly solos with tongues lodged firmly in-cheek. It is a baffling yet dazzling display of hard rock technique, replete with leotards, top hats and thongs.
At one point, masked guitarist Shred Head wails through an elongated solo whilst walking through the bar, pausing for photographs with delighted punters. The riotous response from the crowd and the energy with which this outfit perform suggests that, like it or lump it, Mental Deficiency are here to stay.
Next up are Swound, a punky power-pop group comprised of four Manx brothers. The band wear their influences on their sleeves, instantly comparable to both Blink 182 and Weezer. Indeed, the similarity edges dangerously close to plagiarism. One track sounds nearly identical to the latter’s 'No One Else'.
What Swound lack in originality, however, they make up for in sheer determination, performing with a seemingly genuine passion for what they are doing. In a recording they might not stand out from the crowd, but they thrive in a live setting.
What's up next is what the crowd has been waiting for. Dick Valentine, the frontman for Electric Six, takes the stage. He notes that it has been six years since the band last played in Belfast, as he slips off his gold lamé cape.
This attire is quite possibly an homage to Martin Fry, the pomp of ABC sharing something in common with the Detroit disco-rockers. Valentine then proclaims his love for Belfast, citing the fact that a Nandos and a Pizza Express opposite each other signals a great locale.
Whilst the Spinal Tap style platitudes may or may not be entirely true, it is certain that Belfast has missed Electric Six. The band played a semi-legendary show in the Empire shortly after the release of break-out single 'Danger! High Voltage' in 2003, as well as two other gigs in the Mandela Hall shortly after.
So expectations are high for tonight’s performance and, despite a slide into slight obscurity in recent years, the concert has sold out. Fans of all ages fill the venue.
Dick Valentine (real name Tyler Spencer) is everything a frontman should be. He is a rock star who oozes that elusive je ne sais qua while rasping along to grooves laid down by his current cohorts in the ever-changing line-up.
Valentine appears to have changed his schtick slightly over the years. While he used to be a lothario Patrick Bateman, now he is an increasingly eccentric Bryan Ferry/Brian Wilson hybrid.
Resplendent in a ruffled maroon shirt, he alternates between wild dancing and standing completely still. In between tracks he babbles hilariously convoluted stream of consciousness, about governments and cats.
The whole evening is saturated with a skewed sense of humour. Valentine also insists that the group is from ‘Michigan, Texas’ and tells the audience that certain tracks would grant them allegiance with the Devil himself. They make their way through five songs before I notice that he is wearing a pair of see through latex gloves.
Luckily, the rest of the band are no slouches either. There is a lot more to the Electric Six than aesthetics and laughs. The lyrics are sometimes squalid, often funny, and can paint images worthy of Tom Waits himself. The band veers through an eclectic mix of downright filthy synth-laden disco ('Infected Girls'), white trash country ('Pink Flamingos') and joyous frat-house rock ('I Buy The Drugs').
Electric Six cater to their hardcore fan-base by playing plenty of ‘deep cuts’ from later albums. The decision to hold off on the two major singles, ‘Danger! High Voltage’ and ‘Gay Bar’ until a bit further into the set appears to put uninitiated audience members off.
However, by the time the second of these tracks is through, the crowd is rejuvenated. No one moves after the final track until the band return for a three-song encore. This reviewer leaves sweaty, smiling and hoping that is isn’t another six years until the next time.