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June 10, 2011

Scissor Sisters at Rams Head Live June 9

When Jake Shears took the stage at Rams Head Live Thursday night, he wore what looked like the bottom half of a spacesuit and an open-chested leotard.

Later, he wore a skin-tight, rubber wet suit that made him look like a skinny, black prophylactic. He aimed to shock, but his outfits were the only risque moments in an hour-and-a-half show that played mainly to their broadest fan base.

For their first Baltimore show, they kept it tame, as clean and politically correct as a "NOH8" campaign. It is safe to say Robyn pulled in more gays back in February.

One likely reason for the tameness of the show is that it's hard to be a gay flamboyant stage performer these days, when your most outrageous shock tactic can be upstaged by a Lady Gaga. Even Freddie Mercury would have blanched at putting a horny unicorn in a music video (Kesha!).

But, also, Scissor Sisters have always had ambitions to appeal to mainstream, arena-sized audiences. Though they bill themselves as a merry band of filthy transgressors, more often than what they're good is making catchy songs - "Take Your Mama Out," "I Don't Feel like Dancin," - that even Vampire Weekend's mom fans can enjoy.

While their songs had always hinted at sex, it wasn't until their last album, "Night Work" that they took it on with complete abandon, singing about sex without condoms and Foucauldian past-times. It played like a Billy Friedkin movie. It was dark, provocative, unapologetic, a creative peak.

Thursday's show - where they played some 18 songs - was too much like their first two albums - ebullient, sure, but too tame, a show that reined it in for maximum mass appeal; a set list, in fact, meant to play as amuse bouche for a Gaga audience, for whom they've opened on the Monster Tour.

While the cover art of "Night Work" is a Robert Mapplethorpe picture of dancer Peter Reed's behind, Scissor Sister's backdrop here was a nude Olympian woman. "Night Work" was represented, but the kinkiest songs - "Skin Tight," "Whole New Way" - weren't. "Sex and Violence," a ferocious track on the album, was defanged here as an acoustic version.

Shears' idea of showboating included lifting his mic in a show of strength, which made him look more like a twinky Jack Lalanne, and spraying the audience with water twice, an unfortunately posey move. He didn't talk much. It was Ana Matronic, actually, who played the Kiki to his Herb, interacting with the audience, dedicating songs, and yakking it up like a seasoned lounge singer. Though he dressed like a futuristic go go dancer, the stabs Shears and Ana took at choreography consisted of jumping around in place and vamping, which, to be fair, Shears did better than Rihanna.

The show's reticence is logical. This is a much bigger production than what a Robyn would put on - it comes with a three-member band, two back-up singers, elaborate light work - and actually made the small Rams Head look bigger. Playing for larger crowds now, they can't be as uncompromising as they got to be on "Night Work," which is not to say that they weren't sex positive, or that, stealing several pages from Gaga's book, heavy on the self-affirmation platitudes - "Be yourself," and all that junk.

But, it robs them of the candor that distinguished them in the first place. Ana Matronic dedicated "Filthy/Gorgeous" to John Waters because he taught the band the true meaning of trash, apparently. But, on the road, Scissor Sisters is playing more like late-career Waters. Charming as it was, this concert was more "Pecker" than "Mondo Trasho."

There were great moments. "Running Out" showed off another thing they do well, the energetic work-out anthem. Ana Matronic was appropriately gamine on "Skin this Cat."

The night's best moments, though, came only when they stayed close to "Night Work''s degenerate spirit - "Invisible Light," with its Ian McKellen prologue, ended the night on a decadent note; "Comfortably Numb" was made all the more sleazy when Shears performed looking a runaway from a Kenneth Anger movie; "Harder You Get" was in-your-face, and enjoyably off-the-rails.

If the crowd - large, but hardly overwhelming - wanted more than those few moments of recklessness, they didn't show it. They were enthusiastic throughout.

There was one more cute moment off stage when "Take Your Mama Out" came on. On the balcony, where I was sitting, a very big man - think a heftier Eric Stonestreet - sat up from his seat and for the first time danced like no one was watching. It's the kind of unrestraint the best Scissor Sisters songs can provoke.

But after he finished, he didn't get up again until it was time to leave.


Night Work
Any Which Way
She's My Man
Tits on the Radio
Harder You Get
Running Out
Take Your Mama
Kiss You Off
Fire with Fire
Skin This Cat
Comfortably Numb
Paul McCartney
Night Life
Sex and Violence (Acoustic)
I Don't Feel Like Dancin'
Invisible Light

Photo: Scissor Sisters performing in June (Reuters)

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Posted by Erik Maza at 7:00 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Concert reviews


What a pissy stuck up queen!!? I couldn't even finish his review...

Skin Tight and Whole New Way were played during the first leg at DAR in DC. I still enjoyed the show last night.

I find it hard to believe we were at the same show. I have been to many concerts over the years and very rarely were they half as engaging as this one. You must be upset that you don't have a legitimate writing career and need to take it out on sad for you.

I interviewed Ana and Baby Daddy before the show. We'll have that on WTMD in a few days and archived on the web site.

Oh--and John Waters wasn't the only dedication. It was nice of Ana to wish me a happy birthday (my 49th) and dedicate Take Your Mama to me.

The point of this self indulgence is to say that younger gay folks some times expect too much. Perhaps that where Eric was at.

I loved this concert, as did everyone else. Why is your review so negative? SS always put on a great show, one of the best concert experiences outside of Madonna or Elton John.

Jake even met with my friends and I afterwards! It was a smash and the whole band was friendly as hell.

The highlight song for me was Harder You Get, which is also my favourite song off Night Work, but Comfortably Numb was also amazing!

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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