LIVE REPORT: Turbonegro
, November 30th, 2012 15:59
Our man of metal Toby Cook sees a ribald and rowdy Turbonegro at London's Electric Ballroom. Picture thanks to Katja Ogrin
There's something about that name, 'The Electric Ballroom', isn't there? It just sounds like the sort of place that you'd want to imagine is frequented by Aladdin Sane-era Bowie types, in sequined platforms and cat suits, dancing to an endless rotation of Donna Summer and Love Unlimited grooves whilst others hoover up lines of coke off lip-shaped, mirrored tables. It's the sort of name where even though you'd imagine all this, you'd still harbour the suspicion that in actuality it's little more than a nightmarish, middle-English answer to Studio 54, which basically means a DJ booth covered in leopard print, little umbrellas in your pints and neon lights in the shape of cocks on the walls. Either way, it sounds like exactly the sort of place Anglo-Norwegian glam-punk troupe Turbonegro should be playing.
Of course in actuality Camden's Electric Ballroom is neither of these things – although it's arguably one of the better mid-sized venues in London it's pretty nondescript at best; there's a rather pokey mezzanine and an equally pokey smoking area that is the bike shed from your high school. Pretty standard fare then, but when Turbonegro are in town small perforations in your reality and 'what the fuck?' moments are likely accompaniments to the experience whatever the setting – such as tonight, where the house DJ elects to spin 'Three Lions' before the band emerge on stage, or that moment when you're asked twice, by different people "Hey, aren't you that guy that won the first series of Iron Man? No? Are you sure?" And that's before the show even starts!
And what a fucking show! Plenty has been written before and since the release earlier this year of the generally excellent Sexual Harassment about some of the more hardcore elements of the Turbojugend's vocal opposition to the recruitment of Tony 'Duke of Nothing' Sylvester as vocalist, and it's perhaps fair to say that that it's taken time for him to totally comfortable in the role. But much like a new suit, it takes time and multiple wears before it becomes truly a part of you; before it morphs from mere existential adornment into a necessary and vital part of the greater whole – and tonight, right from the very first millisecond of opener 'Hello Darkness', Sylvester unquestionably looks as much a part of the band as any other member, and equally as vital.
Looking as imposing as the tiger tattooed on his gut yet somehow also exuding the air of man who wouldn't look out of place DJing for the Village People, it's Sylvester and bassist Happy Tom who provide the focal point and the regular moments of typically bizarre, near nonsensical and frequently risqué humour that punctuates their mammoth 21 song set. Amongst the shit-kicking punk and groin-grabbing and ill advised dance inducing rock & roll of numbers like 'I Got A Knife' and 'Denim Demon', not to mention the driving darkness of 'Dude Without A Face', are stories about Sylvester being the bastard son of Arthur Scargill and Jimmy Savile; how Kit Kats are shit now because they're wrapped in plastic and as such you can no longer use the foil to smoke skag out of (which gets blamed on Margaret Thatcher); and then there's the moment during their second encore, before classic 'I Got Erection', where they insist that the party hungry crowd create a 'wall of death' because they saw Limp Bizkit do it and "it looked awesome."
If this new chapter in the history of Turbonegro ever looked or sounded like a hard sell then tonight, strutting through their set in such gloriously camp yet powerful fashion that it's something like watching a Carry On… film where Hattie Jacques overdoses on steroids and beats the crap out of Sid James with a dildo, tonight is the night we bought it. And judging from the reaction of the hordes of Turbojugend, some of whom have obviously travelled hundreds, if not thousands of miles to be here, with such a perfunctory performance it doesn't matter if there are giant neon cocks on the wall or not after all.