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Viktoria ModestaViktoria Modesta
The Face
Johnny Lazer

Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London
Wednesday May 23 2012 

 

 

Well, somebody's certainly a big fan of Erasure. To be specific, Johnny Lazer is a big fan of Erasure. Bounding around the stage in his braces, emoting mightily to pounding electro-disco, he's the very embodiment of eighties boystown.

He's flanked by a guitarist who never misses an opportunity to throw some shapes, peel off some licks, and generally make like he's auditioning for Van Halen. Perhaps fortunately - because a little Van Halen goes a long way with me - it's the pounding disco beat that dominates despite his efforts.

But even so, I'm not sure that the world is ready for Johnny Lazer's vigourously assertive hi-NRG workouts - at least, not beyond the listener reach of Gaydar Radio. But if eighties stompo-disco ever comes back into fashion, Johnny's going to clean up.

The Face look like an unholy collaboration between Pete Burns and a couple of stray Sugababes. They stand in line across the front of the stage, the Pete Burns-y guy doing his best intense glower, the girls exuding professional good humour. Once you've got over the visual mismatch, the tunes are entirely conventional pop-soul-dance, with perhaps a touch of a vintage feel - 'vintage' in this case meaning 'late 90s'. An aeon away in pop music terms, but I just bet The Face are fans of the Spice Girls. Johnny Lazer / The Face

In a way it's nice to see The Face mess about with the girl-group conventions like this. Their music isn't the usual glossy r'n'b-lite, one of them isn't even a girl. But once you've absorbed all that, there's not much to get a handle on. For all the vamping and flouncing by Not-Pete Burns, there's no actual edge.

Last time I saw Viktoria Modesta, she was doing a kind of minimal, mid-tempo electro, with a reel-to-reel tape machine on stage as a prop to provide a certain Human League-ish ambience. This time, things are a lot less minimal. The tape machine has given way to a glittery backdrop that recalls the kind of thing they used to hang behind the bands on 60s TV music shows. I'm sure that's no accident. Viktoria Modesta has taken on a touch of the Shirley Basseys, and it suits her rather well.

Viktoria ModestaShe stalks into the spotlight, cool and collected without being stand-offish. Viktoria Modesta has perfected an air of glacial confidence while still retaining just a touch of the girl next door. Or, at least, the girl next to you in the Torture Garden queue.

There's definitely an edge about Viktoria Modesta, as if she's starring in her own private, ever so slightly fetishistic, gangster movie. Welcome to the cabaret scene, folks.

The music swells to a cinematic swoop and thrum, and Viktoria's torchy vocals glide over the top with commanding ease. The wide-screen power-ballad-disco (don't flinch, the combination actually works) of 'Satelite' is a swoony delight, propelled as it is by a nagging, dare-you-to-dance circling beat-groove, while 'Jane Bond' - a title that puts us neatly into the cinematic zone again, of course - is downright rock 'n' roll, with its growlng guitar and tugging, shoving, rhythm. Through it all, Viktoria twirls and shimmys, never stepping out of the spotlight, a one-woman personification of laboratory-conditions tech pop and old school showbiz organics. It's a neat job to pull that dichotomy together, but Viktoria Modesta walks the line like a natural.

Viktoria ModestaThe song on which Viktoria Modesta unleashes the full diva-esque force of her vocal is the new singe and unashamed anthem, 'Only You'. It's a thing of soaring drama, and yet also of unflappable assurance, as Viktoria emotes the lyric with scientific precision and just the right amount of showbiz verve.

'Only You' is probably the source of my Shirley Bassey comparison - there's something about the song's combination of high drama, gimlet-eyed control, and immaculately-deployed technology that recalls the 1987 Yello/Bassey collaboration 'The Rhythm Divine' (If you ever wanted to do a cover, Viktoria...)

Viktoria Modesta's traditional showbiz glitz gift-wrapped in a post-modern packaging works rather well. That ever so slightly fetishistic gangster movie is going to look good, I reckon. And I think I'm going to like the soundtrack.

 

 

Viktoria Modesta: Website | Facebook

The Face: Website | Facebook

Johnny Lazer: Website

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

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