With twelve albums to their name, Electric Six are remarkably prolific for a band primarily known for two hit singles. Danger! High Voltage and Gay Bar were an essential part of the noughties soundtrack, but as loyal fans crow-barred into a sold out O2 Academy Islington tonight will testify, there’s much more to this band than that.
This is a weird venue. Purpose built in a nondescript thirteen-year-old shopping centre, it has all the ambience of a nondescript thirteen-year-old shopping centre. As functional as it gets, service ducts and pipework dangle from the ceiling – it’s kind of like being in IKEA, without the little stubby pencils and the abundance of beds to lie down on when you just can’t take it anymore. Fortunately, whilst the venue may have lacked character, the crowd had it in abundance. A chant of “We Want Six!” (given the band, I assume an intended punny double entendre) was ringing around the place as Dick Valentine (see what I mean) and his comrades took to the stage shortly after nine.
They opened in emphatic style, with crowd favourites such as Electric Six, Down At McDonnelzzz and Roulette! attracting fist pumps and much yelling. The nasty little riff that signified the start of Gay Bar came early in the set, an act of great confidence from a band that knew they still had plenty of bangers in reserve. Plastic pint cups went up like confetti, discharging their partially consumed contents on the assembly. I’ve had a soft spot for this song ever since a particularly dreary first dance at a wedding I was at segued into it part way through – the older generation were as confused as they were mortified and it contributed to one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. I liked the video too, the censored version of which made the supposedly risqué Relax by Frankie Goes To Hollywood look like a Blue Peter Christmas special.
The band have seen plenty of line-up changes over the years, the only constants being Valentine himself and keyboard player Tait Nucleus?, one of the more peculiar stage names you’ll ever come across. The frontman made frequent references to the size of the back catalogue and the comparative lack of commercial success contained within. It would have been slightly tragic, were it not for the fact that they obviously live to perform and Valentine had tongue placed firmly in cheek throughout: “This next one is song number seven from an album I’ve forgotten the name of.”
There was little evidence tonight that anybody present was here to relive the occasional past glory anyway. Song after song followed (not much in the E6 back catalogue lasts more than three minutes) and every one was met with equal passion and commitment to leave a portion of vocal cord on the floor. This is one dedicated fan base.
By the time the encores (all four of them, including a tasty cover of Rainbow’s All Night Long) came around, most audience members looked like they’d been through a dozen rounds with Wladimir Klitschko. Electric Six left the stage to wild screams, and further chants of “We Want Six!” rang around the Academy. With the lights up we were back in a nondescript shopping centre, albeit one with a freshly laid carpet of crushed plastic beer cups. For around ninety minutes, Electric Six put a real spark through this place. Never has a band been more aptly named.
Electric Six are touring their latest album release, Fresh Blood For Tired Vampyres.
Review & Photography by Simon Reed. Electric Six at Islington Academy 2nd December 2016.
Simon Reed has his own music photography site here: http://www.musicalpictures.co.uk