Fancy Some Cabaret?

The following review appears in the latest edition of London’s premier music ‘zine, London Tour Dates.

UPDATE 3/1/07: The organisers of the below-reviewed entertainment issued the following missive to my editor: “Is Paul always quite so scathing? Sounds like he’d hate anything remotely corporate..?”

Scathing? Moi?

If you’re type of traditionalist who turns his head walking down North London, unable to bear the sight of what was the Camden Palace now branded Koko, then sponsored theme nights such as Smirnoff’s Electric Cabaret will quite possibly have you retching in the gutter as you pass.

The corporate smooching starts as you enter, greeted as you are by the vodka giant’s own polar explorers in full frosted marketing drag. Guests are then doled out with feather boas and black hats which combined seem to make everyone look like The Hitcher from the Mighty Boosh — a disturbing sight but somehow apt for this venue’s fabulous Victorian provenance.

The theme, if there is one, is probably best described as eclectic. Act 1 was Empress Stah, a transsexual gymnast who gets top marks for courage if none for balls, for dangling 10 feet in the air off Koko’s rickety old hunk-of-junk chandelier. Various other performers — a mime artist, stilt walkers, can can dancers — hit you one after the other but the thing about these sorts of events is that the acts are like buses, if you don’t like one, there’ll be another along in a minute. If, like the lovely Paula, you’ve sensitive Latin American ears unused to “mierda guitarra distortionale”, then the shredding glam rock of Parisien funksters Fancy, is your cue to snuggle up inside the very evocative and wonderfully lit Global Bar tucked away at the rear of Koko’s mid-level. Don’t want a drink? Then roll-up to the make-up bar and get yourself some under-eye face paint: Stuart Goddard may be wandering in his his own private palookaville but here, in the dark recesses of London’s burgeoning cabaret scene, Adam Ant’s spirit lives on.

Of course you can Google the acts before arrival but I like to occasionally wade through uncharted waters and Smirnoff’s night, while overall a little predictable, occasionally came up with a few surprises. Entering the entertainment atlas at the point marked ‘here be monsters’ was Aussie contortionist Captain Frodo who had the venue collectively gagging/covering their eyes with his ability to dislocate himself through two tennis rackets. I was tempted to yell out “Try it with the strings in” but this bendy fecker would probably manage it somehow.

The night was prematurely cut short for yours truly by the pounding inanity of an overly long set from Chicago indie dullards OK GO (whoever had them follow the fireball that is Fancy was playing a very cruel trick), but as an alternative to spending the night in the boozer lamenting the state of British football this spot of cabaret ain’t half hot.


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