Wednesday 28 October 2009

The Noisettes review: "Atticus" and Shingai's death-defying balcony scene at Shepherds Bush Empire

Madam Miaow's video shot from three seats away

Well, that's divas for you. Lucky she has circus skills.

We had top seats for Monday's Noisettes gig at the Shepherds Bush O2 Empire thanks to Bill and Rachel, guitarist Daniel Smith's parents. Ah! Nuthin' like sitting in comfort sipping Strongbow from a plastic mug, I'm that sophisticated.

The band opened with Don't Upset the Rhythm and singer Shingai Shoniwa cavorting on top of a silver-draped platform in an explosive blaze of light under a giant scarlet love-heart. A wild leap onto the stage began Wild Young Hearts, then Don't Give Up, the first track off their first album. Their third big hit, Never Forget You, came later in the set. Songs from their first album, What's the Time Mr Wolf?, are quirkier and closer to their indie rock roots than the poppier numbers off Wild Young Hearts but the audience loved it all, not least because this band puts on such a good show.

Shingai is a phenomenon. Sexy without being ingratiating, she prowls the stage like a big cat and stalks her audience, barefoot and mischievous, long-limbed and natural. Draping herself across Jamie Morrison's drum kit, you believe the world, like the stage, is her own.

As well as being an ace guitarist (see his Hendrix homage, complete with teeth, on Don't Give Up), Daniel Smith is essentially musical director  and adds stability to the show so that Shingai can do her thang.

The band is occasionally backed by a brace of singers plus a string quartet, a keyboard player and a bass player who deputises for the multi-talented Shingai on most of the songs, freeing her up to perform to the max. Yet they never sound sparse when it's just the three members on stage. Meaning "the bollocks" in French, The Noisettes are a lively, ballsy likeable trio with seriously good musical content.

They're an overnight phenomenon that's taken twelve years to break through. Their music can be heard everywhere from The Sopranos (Scratch Your Name), St Trinians (Don't Give Up) and Bionic Woman to Timberland and Mazda ads. They've already been in Vogue and I bet fashion and beauty companies will be chasing the stunning black singer. This is a woman who should never have to pay for her skin-care again. Personally, I wish Créme De La Mer would chuck some product at me.

Not that Shingai hails from a tradition of frivolity. Her mother was imprisoned in her native Zimbabwe at the age of 17 as a freedom fighter under the odious Smith regime. And her uncle Thomas Mapfumo is a respected musician/activist, known as "the voice of the revolution".

The NME may snottily write them off as a pop sellout but Shingai is at least fifth-generation Mbira musician, popular across Southern Africa, while Daniel's Dad is a music writer and accomplished blues harmonica player, currently with Charles Shaar Murray and the Queens of Funk in Crosstown Lightnin'.

Long may they thrive.


VenerableSage said...

Almost like being there!

Frank Partisan said...

It looks like a great time.

Lion-ess said...

I was there for the concert on the 26th... amazing concert!