Blimey, they’ve really tarted up the backroom of this evening’s venue, The Rainbow. I can remember when it didn't even have a roof, now there's decking, a new paintjob, chic bare brick walls...very posh. It’s entirely appropriate given the fact that on their last visits to Birmingham The Irrepressibles played St Martins Church and The Town Hall, arguably two of the more beautiful venues in the City. Tonight was more of a low key, stripped back performance though. The equivalent, Jamie informed us after the show, of a band playing one of those hip n’cool secret post gig sets that the likes of you and I could never dream of getting in to.
First up Noblesse Oblige, now there’s a decent band name eh? Noblesssssssssse Obligggggggge. Say it out loud. It’s like snogging yourself. Hmmmmmm. Bear with me a minute. Just having a moment. Er...anyway... they’re a Franco German duo (actress Valerie Renay and Sebastian Lee Philipp) with a super cool Euro electro feel. At times Valerie comes off like a cross between Grace Jones and Eartha Kitt, cat like but with a hint of menace...a kitten that’s as likely to bite your face off as it is to nuzzle up and purr gently at you. All of tonight’s tracks were new so I’m relying on my hastily scribbled notes (slightly smudged thanks to my tendency to excitedly dribble cider from time to time) and legendary skill at guessing the names of songs I’ve never heard before. But if set highlights Mata Hari, which had a bit of a tropical feel, and On Your Own, with more of a minimalist Joy Division edge, are any indications of the quality of their new album it’ll be well worth checking out.
Right, on to the main event. The Irrepressibles. A band / concept that I’ve been banging on about for the last couple of years now...and with just cause. Fronted by the hugely talented Jamie McDermott they’ve produced some of the most beautiful music ever made and put on some shows that shame pretty much any other group on the planet. Compared with these events tonight was a distinctly stripped back affair (literally in the case of the two bare-chested drummers), just four people, simple but effective lighting and samplers standing in for the usual budget busting string section. Even so it still felt glamorous somehow, a trademark of all of Jamie’s productions. Billed as the Electro Nude tour the set saw the band revisiting and remixing old tracks as well as unveiling some new stuff, most of which showed a radical change in direction from the lush orchestration of In This Shirt to more of an underground club feel. That’s not the only change though. Who’s the bearded dude fronting the band? It’s Jamie, tonight well and truly rocking the Mad Max meets Max Factor look. It’s a world away from the fragile, somewhat introspective character that he’s previously inhabited. One thing’s still the same though. That voice. That heavenly, heavenly voice. If it was the last thing you heard on the way through the pearly gates you’d die happy (well, relatively happy, I guess that depends on how you ‘go’...being buried alive under a mound of used incontinence pads can’t be a pleasant experience but drowning in a vat of 1811 Chateau d’Yquem...now you’re talking).
The Ghosting Season remix of new single Arrow kicked the show off. It’s a haunting treatment of the song, stark piano, slightly menacing synths and electronic drums only serve to further highlight Jamie’s voice and I couldn’t help feeling like one of the luckiest people on earth to be just a few feet away from it. For real...as they say on the street. New track, I’m Yours (not sure of the title but it could be called that), was pure 80’s pop gold and if the Irrepressibles wanted a stab at chart glory this could well be the one. Picking up a pint Jamie then downed pretty much the whole thing (good man) before singing Machino (again I’m guessing at track names) like an angel. With more of a Japanese feel and some beautiful multi-layered harmonies it was another set highlight, once again showing a different side to the band and possibly hinting at the diversity of their new album, Nude, due out in October. Another newbie, Tears Of A Clown (no, not that one, but equally good) prefaced a remix of The Tide from the band’s previous album, the frankly essential Mirror Mirror. It’s unrecognisable from its original incarnation, transformed from a gentle lullaby into a full on electro club cult classic that gives Anthony’s work with Hercules and Love Affair a run for its money.
After the official single version of Arrow, with memory stirring echoes of Yazoo’s synths in the mix, the encore couldn’t have been a better choice. In This Shirt is arguably The Irrepressibles...hell, music’s finest moment to date and, in keeping with the rest of the show, there was a subtle electro twist here and there. This could have been a dangerous thing to do, messing with perfection, but it actually added a neat freshness to a track that I’ve probably listened to more than anything else over the past couple of years. ABSOLUTE BLISS. And then it was all over...all too soon. Noooooooooo. Come back!!!!! Oh well, they always say you should leave the crowd wanting more. Somehow I can’t imagine I won’t be the only one there tonight who’ll be counting down the days until their next visit...