Features | Concerts

Scissor Sisters

By Amir Nezar | 27 May 2004

As my good buddy and fellow staff-mate Todd and I prepared to enter the 9:30 Club's doors (I was scarfing down bar-b-que chips and a coke, as well as half of a roast-beef sandwich), open at an uncharacteristically early 6:45 pm (there was a second concert later that night), we heard blaring AC/DC, cock-rock and southern rock coming from the overhead speakers in the club. We both looked at each other and grinned; the show we were preparing would unleash just about the diametric opposite kind of music on us. Already I had seen a fabulously (in the Scissor Sisters sense of the word) dressed guy walk in wearing five-inch platforms, and let's be straightforward: a good majority of the fans there were gay. Todd and I, hetero-life-mates, as it were, felt a wee bit out of place, but that didn't mean we weren't going to sing along to "Filthy and Gorgeous," when it came along in the set.

Admittedly, the show was not as flamboyant as we had expected -- chalk it up to lead singer Jake Shear's parents being in the audience -- but it was nonetheless enormously entertaining, and more importantly, thoroughly convincing of the Scissor Sisters' actual skill as musicians. It might be easy to dismiss much of their self-titled as novelty, silly disco rock without any kind of real musicianship behind it. But see them in concert, and the story becomes altogether different. Lead guitarist Babydaddy has fret skill that shines despite his understated stage presence, and all the members' contributions, save Ana Matrionic, more than evidence the actual chops to back up the attitude.

The concert began with "Take Your Mama Out," which to me has always been as much George Michael as Elton John-reminiscent. The band handled it with ease, with Babydaddy going up and down his guitar frets with a kind of cool confidence that immediately showed exactly how comfortable the band was with performing. His most significant contribution would be on the Pink Floyd cover "Comfortably Numb," where his more immediate guitar (on the album it didn't have nearly the presence it did in concert) lended the song more power and grit than its shiny-disco album counterpart.

But what was excellent about the Scissor Sisters was the ease with which they improvised, sometimes seamlessly transitioning between entirely different songs and then back again, but always providing a little extra punch to the cleanly produced album versions of their songs. The sole song that didn't see improvement over its album version was "Laura," which lacked the verve behind it that accompanied so many of the band's other songs.

Shears, decked out in white lycra pants, an open chested mesh shirt and matching white lycra vest, danced, frollicked, and even was dry humped from behind by the big-boned Ana Matrionic while he hit notes that spanned an immense range. Matrionic, on the other hand, not only made terribly bad stage chat, but didn't possess anything approaching Shears's presence. No matter, though, because his flamboyancy was enough to make anyone smile.

The set was overall very solid, with individual members of the band displaying a modest amount of multi-instrumental talent. However, it was a shame that the show was as ill-attended as it was, because with the club packed at only 60% or so of its full capacity, the crowd seemed very thin, and the energy from the stage didn't permeate as well into the crowd. Plus, with Shear's parents there, the feeling was that a potentially dirty-mouthed and inflammatory show was toned down for the sake of paltry politesse (Shears even looked up to apologize to his parents, in a funny moment, for saying "it's summertime; time to get ready to eat some pussy!").

Todd and I were treated, however, to a number of new songs for which we did not know the titles. For the most part, these were immensely successful, moving in the vein the Scissor Sisters already occupy, and occasionally bridging into funk, from which they're only a half-step away anyhow. One of them was terrible, however, working on a flimsy melody and a tiring house beat that might've made for a good dance-club track, but which musically had too many holes to make it worthwhile.

But for $10, we got more than our money's worth of entertainment. And while the Scissor Sisters' concerts may not be the best venue for picking up chicks, the antics on stage (regrettably a little subdued in our case) and the band's obvious musical talent make it a show not to miss for the uninitiated and open-minded.