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The Last Dance
Eva O

Rome Burns

Marquee, London
Wednesday November 16 2005

How bizarre. A gig in a modern, minimalist loft apartment. Everything is gleaming white and distinctly designer-seventies. This is the Marquee? Yep, it is - but this time we're in an upper level room in the Marquee's multi-storey ex-superclub building, rather than the more familiar black-painted gig venue downstairs. It's all rather surreal.

This, however, means that the surroundings suit Rome Burns, who are splendid eccentrics in their own way. Well, at least, the band's vocalist has a certain oddball charm, which rubs off on the band as a whole. He bobs and weaves centre stage, Rome Burnssuited and be-hatted, favouring the crowd with quizzical glances, ever and anon raising an aporetic eyebrow, like a beatnik university professor momentarily interrupted in mid-lecture. The rest of the band are a far more conventional trio of goth musos, all three of them firm adherents of the 'stand there and squint at the fretboard' style of showmanship. At times they take on the look of a rock 'n' roll Egyptian frieze: three guitars held at the same angle, three heads tilted sideways. All they need to do is work out a sand dance routine and they'd have it made.

The songs are literate, sagacious shaggy dog stories which work better the further they stray from conventional gothic rock arrangements. 'Non Specific Ghost Story' ('non specific' seems to be some sort of Rome Burns catch phrase) has a rather wonderful cafe on the rive gauche feel, a Jaques Tati film reinvented as a pop song. It's a bit of a disappointment when the band haul their muse back to the goffick rock zone, and shackle her to some more straight-up gothisms. Rome Burns are a band that improve the more they deviate from the norm.

Eva OI suspect that quite a few people in the Marquee's loft apartment tonight are rather hazy as to who, exactly, this mysterious Eva O woman actually is. Sure, there's a crowd of diehard fans at the front, but there is also a noticeable contingent hanging back, interested but uncommitted, not really sure what they're going to get. Eva O's previous lives in the Super Heroines (an early-80s Los Angeles punk bunch) and some of the more esoteric line-ups of Christian Death frankly don't mean much in the UK, beyond creating the rather vague notion that somewhere, somehow, Eva O is slightly famous. This isn't necessarily a bad state of affairs, mind. In fact, it's positively advantageous in that it concentrates attention on the here and now.

With a strong new album, Damnation/Salvation, to promote, and plenty of attitude-fuel ready to burn, Eva O doesn't need to use her past as a prop. So, what we get is a full-on stomp-and-holler set of Hammerite-black rock 'n' roll, every song a roaring hellfire rant delivered at stadium volume. Eva O's voice dominates the sound. It's full and sonorous, and yet as abrasive as emery board. Her presence, an uncompromising fetish-diva in heels as high as the Marquee's tower block, pulls all eyes to the front. Couple all this to her Sabbath-esque guitar sound, and some bang-on bass and drums delivered without the slightest fuss by her two backing musicians, and the result is an impressive show which confronts the rather prosaic surroundings head on. There's a bit of theatre involving apples and blood, biblical imagery put through a punk rock filter. Eva grins a wild grin, and some volunteers from the audience come forward to receive the forbidden fruit. It all amounts to a fine, full-strength display of rock 'n' roll theatrics which is only slightly restrained by the somewhat un-rock 'n' roll environment in which it takes place. Definitely a case of praise the Lord - and turn it up to 11.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, all the way from Fountain Valley, California (I include the location here because from a UK perspective it sounds deliciously exotic) - the hardest working band in showbusiness: The Last Dance. Another year, another jaunt around the music clubs of Old Europe. This is a band whose view of the world comes near-permanently framed by the windows of the tour van. Which, naturally, means that The Last Dance are guaranteed to provide a confident, seamless, no-messing set. All those gigs, all those tours mean that these gents have it all down to a fine art. And, of course, the fact that The Last Dance have been through London so many times in the past (indeed, they play here more frequently than some London-based bands seem able to manage) means that there's an easy rapport with the audience, jokes and mock-insults flying back and forth, until it all builds up into an atmosphere that's more akin to an informal party than a conventional gig.

Guitarist Rick flails his fibre-optics and does his effects-pedal dance, bassist Peter maintains a stern but amiable presence, drummer Stevyn Gray is self-effacing but sonically vital in the back, and vocalist Jeff Diehm leads this motley crew with the panache of a born frontman. The set is an all-purpose primer of the band's greatest hits; the Manuskript version of 'Voices', a rare example of a band playing a remix live, stands out. Jeff leaves the stage for a radio mic walkabout - the audience, showing traditional British reserve, refuse to acknowledge that anything weird is going on, and continue to stare stoically at the stage - and ends up reclining in the architecture, singing from a relaxed position in what I can only describe as a designer snow-hole let into the side wall of the room. Crazy band, crazy architects. Yep, this is a good gig, sure enough, notwithstanding the odd venue in which it takes place. I'm sure The Last Dance have played weirder situations in their time. And as I always say, a touch of strangeness helps the rock 'n' roll go down.


Essential links:

The Last Dance: Website | Myspace

Eva O: Website | Myspace

Rome Burns: Website | Myspace

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.
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