In an age where a successful tour is measured in terms of spectacle and bang for the buck, it is very easy to lose sight of what brought you and those artists together: the music. We want the biggest bang for our buck, and if anything even remotely doesn’t measure up to our expectations, you can count the seconds until someone starts demanding a refund. That is why I am still in awe almost a day after watching the Gossip tear it up live last night.
First off, I am a little disappointed in my fellow Denverites, who did not make the show a sell-out, but trust me when I tell you that the folks that did fill the lower level of the theater did a fine job of making the bands welcome. I thought I was beyond being an active participant at concerts, but last night found me dancing around enough to qualify for entrance to the mosh pit. I may have had a couple of beers, but the music did the majority of the work.
Opening act Men (which confused me at first, based on the Gossip’s Music For Men) got things going on the right foot with their fun synth-pop that sounded like what you would expect if Depeche Mode had started up about 20 years later than they actually did. Le Tigre came to mind as a comparison, and it turns out that JD Samson of Le Tigre fronts the group. I would not have known him if I walked past him on the street, but their set was a blast, and I would go to their show if they came back to town. Signs, chainmail, house helmets and tight red pants are all visuals that will stick with me for quite a while.
While Men was playing, there was this woman down close to the stage dancing around and having a blast, and she had the brightest pink hair I have ever seen. I feel pretty dumb right now, because it turns out that it was lead singer Beth Ditto, hanging out in the crowd and enjoying the opening act. I am not sure how Beth could be cooler to me than she is, but once I realized who it was, the cool quotient just took off. It wasn’t just the hair that caught me off guard, though. Beth is a bit shorter than I expected, but once she took the stage and took control of the audience, all that mattered was her presence, which owned everyone in attendance. Seeing her play some festival stage seems like a mandatory show for my future.
Musically, I was blown away by how a foursome could sound so much bigger than their individual parts. Hannah Blilie’s driving beats, Nathan Howdeshell’s guitar riffs and Beth’s powerhouse vocals combine for an infectiously rocking experience, and Chris Sutton’s killer bassline propelled the band’s music throughout their set. Normally I will feel one or two lulls in a show, but the Gossip were not having it. From the opening bass of “Dimestore Diamond” to the encore performance of “What’s Love Got to Do With It”, the show was relentless, and I loved every minute of it. Highlights for me were “Heavy Cross” and “Pop Goes the World”, although there wasn’t a dog in the bunch. My biggest disappointment was not getting to hear “Standing in the Way of Control”. I figured that was a given, but the set did lean heavily on the current record, so it’s only a small blip on an otherwise amazing show.
In between acts, I got a chance to talk with Tara from their management company about where they are heading from here. After they complete their trek across the U.S., it’s off to Europe for a month of shows, and then Australia gets blessed with their presence. For those of you who didn’t get to see them on this leg of the tour, there should be a second U.S. tour in the spring that will focus on the southern states (Atlanta, anyone?). Hopefully Denver showed out enough to get a return engagement. If another show does pop up, I will be going door to door recruiting folks to go, because that show rocked my world. If they come to your town, go. They are worth every penny of admission.