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Joe Black

The Fly, London
Wednesday September 2 2009




Well, here's a new one on me. I don't think I've ever attended a video launch party before. Album launches, yes. Singles launch gigs, certainly. But a video launch? Not until tonight. Maybe that's because most bands put out videos as mere promotional devices, as adjuncts to a conventional audio release such as the new single. It's rare to find a band that makes a video as an artifact in its own right, but that's what Maleficent have done with their interpretation of Nick Cave's 'Where The Wild Roses Grow'.

As a matter of fact, for many years it was almost unheard of for an independent band to make videos at all. Apart from anything else, who would ever get to see them? With a mere handful of music TV outlets, all controlled by Big Media, an independent band's work would be unlikely to get past the gate. But then the internet happened. This created an instant outlet for visual output, and a potential audience many times bigger than even prime-time MTV could deliver. These days, the only puzzle is why more bands don't make videos.

The basement bar of The Fly makes for a fairly basic cinema, but nobody's expecting red velvet and soft furnishings tonight. The video appears on a big screen: a lavish location extravaganza, almost Daliesque in its hyper-real imagery. And then, immediately afterwards, the live action version.

Maleficent themselves take the stage - and it's a slightly revised version of Maleficent compared to their previous line-up. Guitarist Pete Turner, who's handled the six-string end of things up to now is absent. Tonight, bassist Dr Sickx plays guitar, and technology plays the bass. But Maleficent can take line-up fluctuations in their stride, because the visual identity of the band is based around the vocal and physical interplay between twin vocalists Miss Martini (assertive female vocals and ballet moves) and Mortimer Cain (scary male vocals and threatening gestures). On the cramped stage of The Fly the band's trademark theatrics are perforce rather muted, but the compact surroundings concentrate the intensity of the frazzled electronics and ripped-up metallics that, suitably slammed together, make up Maleficent's sound. 'Demize' in particular is a roaring glam-monster; 'Wild Roses' itself never seemed so wild.

After the main event, the support act. Which is not the usual manner in which gigs are put together, but what the hell. Turning convention on its head is not, in general, a bad move. Except, tonight, it doesn't quite work. Poor old Joe Black finds himself playing to a mostly empty room, for much of the audience promptly decamped to the upstairs bar as soon as Maleficent quit the stage.

Undaunted by this discouraging state of affairs, he plunges into his set of cheerily manic Halloween pub-piano singalongs, his grin as wide and his vocals as piercing as ever. It's a fine demonstration of showbiz values in adversity, but a few songs in it occurs to me that I'm no great fan of Joe Black's grin-and-screech piano ditties. Mentally apologising to Mr Black, who's in the middle of a particularly ear-splitting major key melodrama, I head for the upstairs bar myself...




Essential Links:

Maleficent: Website | MySpace
Joe Black: Website | MySpace

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


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  Page credits: Video directed by David Kenny, taken from Sicktronic's YouTube channel. Review, photos and construction by Michael Johnson.
Nemesis logo by Antony Johnston, Red N version by Mark Rimmell.