The expectations for Gary Wilson's London (and UK) debut show were very high. I had heard tales of performance art shenanigans, COUM/TG-style transgressions with milk and fake blood that saw the plug pulled on many a gig and, above all, great musical performances of his pioneering pre-punk-post-punk electro-lounge-pop. And, you know, it was my birthday, so I'd have been very sad if it was rubbish.
With his colourfully costumed backing band The Blind Dates (though judging by their appearance I doubt many of them were performing in the 70s) Gary glid on stage in a black jacket, marigolds and the biggest hair I have ever seen. (Was it a wig? Hope not.) Standing amongst the Shacklewell Arms’ tiny stage cramped with musicians and props, including a disembodied head, he performs a set that shows that all the gimmicks only enhance a superb live show. Much of the fifty-minute set came from the legendary 1977 album You Think You Really Know Me and 2010 album Electric Endicott, with classics like ‘You Keep On Looking’, ‘6.4 = Make Out’, ‘Where Did Karen Go?’ and an insane breakdown of the ‘77 album’s title track, with Wilson sprawled out on the dancefloor, threatening his audience with the question that no-one pre-2000 seemed to be able to answer affirmatively.
(filmed by ronniewibbley)
What the show lacked in the anticipated flying milk (you think you really know some people…) it made up for in great musicianship from The Blind Dates, and a commanding vocal performance from Wilson. As his band pratted about in space-age/Egyptian mummy costumes, his presence held everything together, much like the gaffer tape the band applied to his hair. Bizarre, but never shambolic, (Ariel Pink should take note…) it felt like the only way this music could have been presented live. A great show. Here’s hoping this wasn’t his last UK show.
Support came from Vindicatrix, whose Autechre-pop stylings would have been alright for 20 minutes, but stretched out over 55 minutes became utterly tedious. FYI, don’t be a support act that does a longer set than the headliner, especially when you’re only scheduled for half an hour. It makes you look like a dick.