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Noblesse Oblige
Alexander Price
I Am Immune

Purple Turtle, London
Saturday September 5 2009

This looks like one of those gigs where the bands seem to have been selected randomly out of a hat. Not that I insist on rigourous aesthetic continuity in the live arena, you understand: contrasting bands can work just as well. But tonight it does seem that in terms of sound and style we're all over the place.

First, the regular-bloke alternorock of I Am Immune - a band that completely fails to excite me, I must admit. They're competent and adequate and all that damn-with-faint-praise stuff, and I think they could probably be quite successful if they pointed themselves at the vanilla-indie circuit and went for the sub-Oasis audience. There's a fanbase out there for regular-bloke alternorock (regular blokes, basically) and the band, in their dutiful worthiness, tick all the right boxes in that area. But they don't tick any boxes for me.

The lads in the band keep their heads down and churn out the four-square noise; the singer, a Michael Stipe-alike in a suit, essays a few frontman moves and gesticulations without ever really looking like there's the slightest flicker of fire in his belly. It's as if the band's raison d'etre is merely to be a technically competent project, rather motivated by than a burning, gimlet-eyed compulsion to create. It's not long before I feel a burning compulsion to go to the bar.

And now, disco time. Incongruously, we're now treated to a song and dance spectacular from Alexander Price and his go-go dancers. Only two go-go dancers tonight, instead of the three that performed with him last time: it seems one of the go-go dancers went-went. Hollering over a thumping boystown backing track in true 'personal appearance' style, Alexander Price prances mightily around the stage as if it's New York in 1979 - or at least Basildon in 1982.

The dancers strike attitudes and gaze rapturously at him as he throws cool-guy shapes and gives us his booming disco demigod vocal. It's a bit like watching a night clubbing version of The Fonz. The strongest song in the set is the love-as-financial-report 'Spend A Little Time', and if Alexander Price has a potential problem it's that his other songs don't quite have that same immediacy. But hey, the shades look cool.

Noblesse ObligeBack from their base in Berlin for a handful of UK dates, Noblesse Oblige bring their curious cabaret atmosphere with them. Arch and deadpan, playing their outré little songs on an ever-shifting combination of guitar, percussion and electronics, Sebastian Lee Phillipp and Valerie Renay are the supper club entertainers of your cheese-induced nightmares. They steer an erratic course between darkly-tinged camp and surrealist punk, maintaining a frosty detachment all the way.

Well, almost all the way. At times tonight their habitual deadpan demeanour cracks slightly - good heavens, Valerie almost smiles - as the set swaggers and staggers along. It's as if the band are only just back from an all-night party in Friedrichain (are there still squat parties in Friedrichain?), and they're still feeling the afterglow.

'Seaside Suicide' is a bleakly witty ballad, 'Tanz Mephisto' an invitation to dance you really can't refuse - not under the baleful glares off the band, anyway. And, of course, 'Bitch' is still the ripped-up punk rock disco riot it always was.

Although Noblesse Oblige started out in London - and it's probably fair to say that we still think of them as one of ours - Berlin is surely their natural home. The band brings a certain tomorrow-we-die party ambience with them that is somehow very Berlin. Afterwards, outside under the pink-tinged street lamps, Camden High Street looks strangely like Karl Marx Allee tonight.

Essential Links:

Noblesse Oblige: Website | MySpace
Alexander Price: MySpace
I Am Immune: Website | MySpace

Noblesse Oblige

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

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