October 25, 2009
By Rossiter Drake
Better Than: Staying home to watch Dexter and Mad Men. But be sure to DVR them.
"We started a band 'cause we were bored. Our mission is to make you dance, and if you're not gonna dance, just stay at home and listen to the oldies station."
So reads Gossip's unofficial manifesto, the one the Portland-based soul-punk trio cheekily settled on soon after forming in the cramped basement of their Olympia, Washington, home in 1999. Ten years later, on the heels of Music for Men, their Rick Rubin-produced major-label debut, they arrived at the Regency on Sunday night to make good on that mission.
And how they did. Beth Ditto, the band's plus-sized frontwoman, resident fashion diva, and self-described "ham," sauntered onto the stage at a quarter past 10 p.m., launching into the festivities with a searing rendition of the otherwise slow-burning "Dimestore Diamond," Music for Men's bluesy opener.
She screamed, she wailed, she moaned, all the while pacing briskly
about the stage, her thick body writhing with the passion of a woman
possessed. It was an electrifying spectacle, and not without substance:
At the end of the night, it's her singing you'll remember most.
That her vocal acrobatics remained so strong was particularly impressive after she announced that she was getting over a cold. "I'm really, really, really hoarse, so if I can't hit it, maybe you can," she said, pausing a beat before adding, "that's what she said!" Ditto continued to chug energy drinks throughout the evening, and if the strain began to show during the encore, it was barely noticeable.
Following "Dimestore Diamond," the band tore through a series of favorites old and new. The set list included "Pop Goes the World," a disco-style dance number which found drummer Hannah Blilie's thunderous beats and guitarist Brace Paine's choppy riffs seamlessly intertwining with Ditto's soulful song. Other highlights included "Don't (Make Waves)," a bouncy slice of garage rock from 2003's Movement; and the closer, "Heavy Cross," which sounds like vintage Stevie Nicks bolstered by blistering club beats.
The band quickly returned for a three-song encore, to the delight of an increasingly raucous capacity crowd for whom Ditto, having changed into a skintight black leotard, belted out an impassioned rendition of Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do With It." From there, it was back to lively original fare - "Standing in the Way of Control," from 2006's album of the same name - before Ditto, perched atop a massive amp, led the crowd in a brief chorus of "the world's first straight and gay anthem," Queen's "We Are the Champions." A fitting sentiment, indeed.
Gossip was preceded by MEN, a Brooklyn-based dance trio (fronted by JD Samson, formerly of Le Tigre) whose high-energy stage show and cheerfully ridiculous attire served as an appropriate precursor to the main event.Critic's Notebook