Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Mark Ronson and Business International (with Duran Duran!) / Rose Elinor Dougall @ The HMV Institute, Tuesday 28th September 2010
Continuing his righteous plundering of the decades Mark Ronson (pictured behind Mr Nick Rhodes here) has decamped from the 60’s and landed flat bang (bang bang) in the early 80’s. A quick skim through some of the tracks from his new album reveals a bit of a thing for arcade games and synth pop, replacing his previous penchant for horns and stuff. Who knows, at this rate his next album’s liable to revisit the glory days of Brit Pop? Hmmm. There seems to be a fair few Ronson haters out there for some reason. I can’t quite figure it out. Both his debut album, the criminally underrated ‘Here Comes the Fuzz’ and it’s follow up ‘Version’, are classic pop. Now he’s pulled another one out the bag with ‘Record Collection’, his new one. Oh...and don’t forget that he produced Amy Winehouse’s career defining ‘Back To Black’ and Lily Allen’s ‘Alright, Still’ too. Add to that his production duties on the forthcoming Duran Duran album (heralded as a real return to form) and what’s not to like? Okay, so maybe there’s the slightly scary looking blonde hairdo but us trendsetters always have to push the boat out a little eh? I guess it’s easy to pick on his upbringing and lifestyle (glam, glam, glam) but having met the guy earlier in the day he seemed pretty friendly to me. A little shy perhaps, but far from the ego riddled musical rapist that some people have dismissed him as. Back off and pick on someone who deserves the abuse. Cheryl Cole will do.
First up though Rose Elinor Dougall. Once a Pipette, now part of Mark Ronson’s Business International, she’s also just released her first solo album and tonight gave (I’m guessing) most of the audience the first opportunity to hear the fruits of her labours. She’s an engaging performer with a classy pop voice, shades of Siouxsie Sioux, Sophie Ellis Bextor and Liz Fraser in there. Musically I was playing spot the influences and ticked off Stereolab, The Smiths and Cocteau Twins in the space of two or three songs...not a bad list eh? Whether she’ll forsake the solo career for a life with Mr Ronson and Co remains to be seen but the sophisticated indiepop of tracks like ‘Fallen Over’ (one of my picks of the set) makes me hope not.
Right, onto the main event and, with the entire stage covered in a red and white grid pattern (more than a nod to the early 80’s there) chrome plated synths and electronic drums, the band bravely kicked off with the instrumental computer game tribute ‘Circuit Breaker’. In amongst the simple synths there are some subtle but successful nods to Ronson’s earlier hip hop roots in the beats that lift the track well above the novelty factor. Then we were straight into ‘Just’, one of Ronson’s biggest hits sung (as on the Version album) by Phantom Planet’s Alex Greenwald. Obviously the horns were absent but the synths did a fine job of making the track seem familiar but fresh all at the same time. Lose It (In The End) saw Mark take on lead vocals for the first time. His voice suits the track well enough, and he can certainly carry a tune, but he’ll probably be the first to admit that singing probably ain’t his main talent.
Other highlights from the first part of the show included a lively ‘Ooo Wee’ (from Mark’s debut ‘Caught By The Fuzz), well and truly nailed by Spank Rock (good work there fella) and recent single, Bang Bang Bang featuring MNDR (in a ridiculous pair of fashionista white specs) and that man, Spank, again. Tune. The chorus sounds like the sort of thing sexy cheerleaders in 80’s leggings and green eye make up would go mental over. Hmmmmm...cheerleaders...
Okay, so there were one or two technical gremlins in the show (I think this was only the second date on the tour). Mark’s attempt at some solo live mixing fell at the first hurdle when the technology went on the blink (cue Mark’s plaintiff cry “Business International...where are you?”), and some of the synths were a little out of time with each other, but these are really minor grumbles. This was turning out to be a seriously fun show.
The fun got ramped up a couple of hundred notches when the not so secret ‘secret guests’ pitched up. Duran Duran. Oh yes.
If you’re under thirty this might not be a huge deal to you but Duran Duran were one of the biggest pop bands. Ever. In an era where pop music ruled the world, Duran Duran were at the top of the heap. As well as achieving 14 top ten singles and selling the odd 100million albums they produced some brilliantly flash and OTT videos that came to pretty much define the 80’s. And now, here they were. Thirty years on but still as cool (or not, depending on your view, maybe you’re more of a Spandau Ballet fan) as ever.
Their slot began with ‘Record Collection’, the track Simon sings on Mark’s new album, again neatly pulling of the trick of sounding retro (the simple stripped back early sounding synths) and modern (Spank’s raps) at the same time.
Then they played ‘Planet Earth’ (with a guest rap from Spank...you can’t keep that man down) and...oh deep joy...’Girls On Film’. Nick Rhodes still looks like the most perfect human being imaginable, somewhere in a loft there’s a very ugly painting of that guy slowly decaying...and Le Bon was his usual pop god self. It was a stadium worthy performance in the relatively intimate setting of the lovely new/old Institute, neatly fusing the dads of synth pop with the next generation. I can die a happy man.
It still wasn’t over though. Business International still had some unfinished business of their own and came back for ‘Bike Song’ (not my favourite track but it seemed a lot better live) and ‘Valerie’, both of which were sung by dirty denim fetishist Kyle from The View.
If pop’s your bag, gigs just don’t get much better than this.
Circuit Breaker / Just / Lose It (In The End) / Ooo Wee / Oh My God / California / The Night Last Night / Bang Bang Bang / Apply Some Pressure / Hey Boy / You Gave Me Nothing / Stop Me / Record Collection / Planet Earth / Girls On Film
Bike Song / Valerie