PERA CUMUR reviews The Black Lips’ recent London gig at the Coronet in Elephant and Castle.
Reviewing a Black Lips concert is a heavy task from the outset, considering their reputation for putting on eccentric shows. Formed in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1999, the band has grown to become a vital part of the modern garage rock scene and has built a mythology around their live performances.
Before the band began the show, the ambitious 360 degrees stage saw three other bands play – the all-female Madonnatron, the new Fat White Family/Childhood supergroup Warmdüscher as well as Welsh alt-rockers Future of the Left. Efficient DJ sets were provided by rising stars PINS and well-established Japanese noise makers Bo Ningen throughout the party.
The best part of a Black Lips show is not what happens on stage but rather what happens around the stage. It’s a sublime saga of lust, passion and spilled beer. Once the first toilet paper roll was thrown, as has been the tradition, the party could begin. They started with their most famous songs, such as ‘Modern Art’ and ‘Family Tree’ from their 2011 album Arabia Mountain; the crowd, with whirlwind energy, sang at the top of their lungs. Human and papier-mâché heads flew over the crowd, and the security staff had a hard time controlling the concert-goers. The immensity of the venue, with its sky-high ceiling, gave the impression of attending a giant rock’n’roll mass where a liturgy actually took place among the worshippers.
The energy slowed down a little with the ballad ‘Crystal Night’, from their latest album Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art? Some people were disappointed by this sudden break, especially one audience member who declared ‘C’est de la merde’ (this is shit) and threw his empty beer can into the crowd. Many come to see the Black Lips for their visceral energy, with the quality of the songs a secondary consideration.
Nevertheless, due to the 360 degrees stage, spectators could enjoy the show as they pleased. Indeed, they had the power to choose from which angle they wished to enjoy the show. The artists were like laboratory mice that you could observe and judge as you pleased— as they were placed in the centre, you could walk or saunter around them. In this particular case, the different levels and balconies inside the Coronet enabled those who were ‘too posh to mosh’, as the presenter said, to ‘step aside’ and enjoy the show without risking being accidentally hit in the head by a floating foot or beer can. The concert could be watched from up high, alienated from the band, as though watching live stream of the Black Lips on Youtube.
Despite these innovative performance features, the band received no encore. It was nothing more than a classic Black Lips concert, though admittedly with all its pellicular rituals. Only the setting of the stage and the concept behind the event really showed ambition on the part of band. Their performance was competent, but the band do not seem to have progressed since their early days: they are still the same high school drop outs, expelled for no apparent reason other than representing some sort of ‘subculture danger’.
Whilst the livelihood of the Coronet is threatened, this show is a good reminder that this historical venue’s name has always been associated with scandal and youthful mayhem, just as it was when it made headlines in the 1950s, when the screening of the Bill Haley & His Comets movie Rock Around the Clock (1956) provoked riots from the young audience. It is the perfect place for a band that has undeniably solidified its place in rock’n’roll history; it is just a shame that the band’s performance was not exciting as the venue itself.
Featured image courtesy of www.sandiegoreader.com