Do you ever get the feeling that alternative music isn't all that alternative any more? Tonight's opening act, Deluka, are touted in many quarters as the coolest thing to hit the alternoscene since the last cool thing, but I don't see any factor X in action here. Deluka strike me as a no-surprises rock act: a bunch of indie lads in scruffy casualwear fronted by a guitar-toting female singer who hollers the vocals in a foghorn blast that suggests her true vocation is delivering Cher-style power ballads. Notwithstanding the band's allegedly edgy indie scene credentials, the music never quite scrabbles out of the inoffensively conventional zone. Frankly, it all gets a bit drivetime for me - indie rock smoothed out for AOR-heads who think that Ocean Colour Scene is about as out-there as it gets. Hardly inspirational. They'll probably be huge.
Let us therefore be thankful that the world also contains Noblesse Oblige. In a parallel universe, they'd be stars of the 1930s cabaret circuit. In this universe, their theatrical no-wave torch songs and mutant disco workouts fit very neatly into the velvet-trimmed surroundings of Madame Jojo's. In the past, Noblesse Oblige shows have been rather confrontational affairs, with the band hurling themselves (not quite literally, but on one or two occasions it's been close) at the audience, spitting out art like cannon fire. But this gig is something of a homecoming party, for Noblesse Oblige are now based in Berlin, and play in the UK only rarely. So the crowd comprises friends and fans alike, who've made a special point of being here to greet the returning heroes, and the atmosphere is consequently easy-going and upbeat. Nobody's going to get shot down by confrontational art tonight.
Not that Noblesse Oblige are about to take it easy. They're as feisty as ever, Valerie and Sebastian strutting around the stage as if they've just bought the venue. Switching between guitar, bass, keyboards and assorted percussion items, they keep the crowd alert for whatever's coming next, and the songs themselves demonstrate a similar wayward variety. The rampant disco of 'Bitch' gives way to the gloriously unashamed misanthropy of 'Offensive Nonsense' - tonight delivered almost as a celebratory anthem, for nothing the band do could be as offensive or as nonsensical as the world they skewer and lampoon in their songs. The new number 'Tanz Mephisto', a classic piece of Noblesse Oblige cabaret-noir, whips up a suitaby decadent storm. Decadent storms, of course, are what Noblesse Oblige are all about, and while nobody's going home in an art-disco body bag tonight, it's still good to know that their cannons are loaded and the skewers are sharp.
more photos from this gig, find Noblesse Oblige here.