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The CourtesansAngie Bowie
The Duel
The Courtesans
100 Club, London
Wednesday April 14 2010


In a bid to make it look like I'm the kind of cool person who gets invited to exclusive rock 'n' roll events, this week I've been telling anyone who'll listen that I'm going to a Bowie gig at the 100 Club. Sounds like some sort of exclusive bash when you put it like that, doesn't it? You don't get a Bowie gig in anything less than an enormodome these days unless something special is going on.

Well, things are not quite what they seem, for this is an Angie Bowie gig - she being, of course, the ex-wife of the somewhat more famous Dave. But in its way this is a special event, too. It's a launch gig for the AidsBeGone CD, a various artists compilation intended to be a fundraiser for AIDS charities.

While AIDS might have dropped out of the headlines in recent years, it hasn't gone away. There's still work to be done to beat it, and to support those who've got it. Good cause, then, no question.

But without wishing to be a wet blanket, I'm not entirely sure how much dosh the AidsBeGone CD will actually raise, for it features a line-up of mostly unknown artists. To be blunt about it, we are not in Bob Geldof territory here. The Duel, our middle band tonight, are about the best-known of the contributors. Angie Bowie herself, who'd lend a certain amount of above-the-parapet profile to the track listing, isn't featured on the CD. It's a grass-roots effort, then, and no less worthy for that. But in the absence of any star contributors, any cash the project may raise will inevitably be limited.

Last time I saw The Courtesans, they were playing upstairs at the Slimelight, and vocalist Eileen Daly was wearing rubber - a slinky fetish image that couldn't quite make up for the fact that the band were galumphing pub-rockers. This time she's a fab gear sixties chick, and the band has a revised line-up and a sharpened-up sound. Now the style is beatnik back-street, and it suits Eileen Daly rather well, as she sashays through a set of wittily nimble bohemian rockers. Her persona - a kind of Eastenders version of Marianne Faithfull - is spikily good-humoured, and, unexpectedly, I find myself rather charmed.

The DuelThe Duel seem admirably unfazed by their status on the AidsBeGone album as stars by default. Tonight they rattle through their spunky, punky anthems with a suitably gung-ho spirit, namedropping Camden Town in much the same way as The Clash used west eleven as their all-purpose locational talisman.

Tara Rez, dressed incongruously in a tartan sash - she looks like she's about to introduce the caber tossing finals at the Highland games - presides over the band's stripped-down punkisms with unpretentious charm, while the band seem entirely at home in this venue that's seen more than its share of punks over the years.

I'm not sure if the dear old 100 Club has seen anything quite like Angie Bowie before, mind. She's unfailingly enthusiastic, expansive and sassy, effortlessly claiming the role of mistress of ceremionies and clearly having a great time doing it - but it's pretty clear that the show has been thrown together at the last minute.

Angie struts her stuff with an impetuous zest in front of what seems to be a pick-up band - The Duel's drummer does a double shift behind the kit. The musicians spend the set exchanging 'What do we do now?' glances, as they apparently piece together a chunky glam-rock bump 'n' grind on the hoof. It all has the air of an unrehearsed kickabout, and while Angie gets away with it on sheer showbiz chutzpah, and the band make it work by pulling every muso trick out of the book, there's nevertheless a distinct feeling that the set is teetering on the cusp of chaos throughout.

Still, the cusp of chaos isn't a bad place to be, as long as you don't fall in. Angie struts and sashays her way through the performance without so much as a nervous glance down: her boundless confidence makes what would otherwise be a rather ramshackle experience work.

Angie BowieHer take on Marlene Deitrich's 'Surabaya Johnny', with an entirely new English lyric by Angie herself, is a highlight, and drops a hint that there could be a rather cool glam-cabaret act somewhere in this rather jury-rigged show, given a few days in the rehearsal studio to work it all up.

Tonight, it's a party, and the impromptu seat-of-the-pants air of the whole shebang ultimately feels like fun.

In the end Angie Bowie holds it all together by sheer force of personality, and while she does hold it all together - let's face it - you couldn't do more than one show like this.

Angie Bowie: Website | MySpace

The Duel: MySpace

The Courtesans: MySpace

AidsBeGone: Website

For more photos from this gig, find the bands by name here.

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Page credits: Review, photos and construction by Michael Johnson. Nemesis logo by Antony Johnston.
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