As the Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears hit town, Getintothis’ David Hall asks chamone, chamone, where is your love, Liverpool?
It’s easy to forget, given that they took a nosedive into mediocrity and wisely called a hiatus, that the Scissor Sisters were pretty decent for a while. Certainly their early sound – like hedonistic single Filthy/Gorgeous – seemed like a faithful distillation of New York gay culture onto record. Plus let’s not forget that their breakthrough disco cover of Comfortably Numb remains inspired.
If all that is easy to forget, then frontman Jake Shears has just released his debut solo album, and has embarked on a UK tour to remind us all.
As he hit Liverpool’s Arts Club, a Sonic Yootha DJ set acted as support, playing a host of queer, straight and gender fluid anthems. Highlights included A Little Respect and You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real), gradually loosening the Tuesday night crowd up. But as Jake Shears entered to All That Jazz to the audience’s approval, we couldn’t help but wonder whether a set of showtunes would have fitted just as well.
The Jake Shears band included My Morning Jacket drummer Patrick Hallahan and Mr Hudson on bass, both collaborators on Shears’ album. They launched quickly into Good Friends, the kind of dynamic, honky-tonk inflected tune that his solo record delivers upon.
Overall, the show was a triumph; feelgood, with a sense of spontaneity and a shrewd wink to the audience to not take it too seriously.
His strongest solo tracks easily sit alongside the Scissor Sisters’ best work. Although songs by the band who made him famous were rapturously received in Liverpool – and Shears appeared to have a great time performing them – there didn’t feel like any great clamour for more Scissor Sisters.
So the encore of underrated single Creep City, with its stop-start sleaze and electro bassline easily matched up to a middling version of the somewhat overplayed I Don’t Feel Like Dancin. The excellent Creep City was followed by closer Mississippi Delta (I’m Your Man), a more southern-sounding glam stomp, a sound which fits Shears well.
Elsewhere, he played about as much Scissor Sisters as one could hope for. I Can’t Decide and Take Your Mama both got an airing, as did their most perfect pop cut Laura. The vaudeville vibe and slight air of madness that song brings is something that Shears extended throughout his set. The faithful country parody Sad Song Backwards and tongue-in-cheek Big Bushy Moustache were also highlights that traded off that same undercurrent.
The Bruiser and Palace in the Sky sagged the show a little. More downtempo, slow-burning numbers didn’t quite fit with the rest of the set. It’s not that Shears can’t do earnest; it’s just that his more earnest songs are not currently his best.
There’s a definite force of personality that carried through the set, Shears arriving onstage in a top hat and eventually shedding his dress pants to reveal fishnet stockings. But he has the tunes and the talent to back that up. Shears’ voice is strong, his falsetto faultless and his onstage persona gale-force.
There was a palpable lull in the crowds’ affection during any moment he didn’t occupy the stage. Whisper it, but there’s a touch of Freddie Mercury to Jake Shears onstage, and it’s not just the moustache. It was a cult of personality we could get behind.
Photos by Getintothis’ Kevin Barrett