Ambling, shuffling, sauntering and skulking… all ways of entering a stage. And all DULL. Come on bands! What’s wrong with making a grand entrance once in a while?
The music history books are thankfully jammed with impressive arrival-related anecdotes. Here, in no particular order, are a top ten which will hopefully inspire today’s minstrels to push that envelope a bit further. Now where did I put that motorbike and that ramp?
1) It Bites – circa 1985. Lord Adam Ant taught us that ridicule is nothing to be scared of: a lesson which Francis Dunnery of Egremont’s finest pomp rockers took very much to heart. Passive observers of the ‘Calling All The Heroes’ and ‘All In Red’ hitmakers of yore might well recall seeing Mr Dunnery enter the stage from the rear dressed in a white cloak and adopting a rather Jesuit-like crucifix pose. And this was all well before Michael Jackson’s Earth Song antics. Balls the size of Bethlehem, that boy.
2) David Bowie – Glass Spider tour, 1987. Bowie has always been effortlessly cool, of course, but the opening tune of the Glass Spider show certainly put this worthy credential to the test. Stadium audiences gasped, giggled and WTF-ed in their tens of thousands as David was slowly lowered onto the stage from the belly of a papier mache spider in an office chair, dressed in red suit and mullet while singing into a telephone. Drugs.
3) Iggy Pop – Anytime, anywhere. Iggy is the king of the 100 yard dash onto a stage. And so, for that matter, are the Stooges. Those boys HAMMER their way onto the boards, and can be plugged in, turned up and cranking into ‘Search And Destroy’ in the time it takes to say ‘Ig…’. The head Stooge is always right behind them, shirt off in five seconds, wriggling among the audience in ten, cock out within the 20 second mark. Breathlessly brilliant.
4) Pulp – late 1990s. Can’t remember the year, but there was one tour where Jarvis’s ‘Stars In Their Eyes’ double was employed to posture and pout his way out of the shadows during the intro music. It looked like Jarvis, it acted like Jarvis, it even sounded like Jarvis. But it was not Jarvis – he came a moment or two later, providing agog witnesses with a double-Cocker moment to cherish.
5) Flaming Lips – Soft Bulletin tour 2003. Video countdowns, Wayne Coyne in a suit and fake blood, confetti, explosions, smoke, lights, balloons, people dressed as animals and dancing superheroes – Flaming Lips never fail to spunk all their special effects budget in the first three minutes of a set. Not so good for the venue cleaners, but they knew the risks.
6) British Sea Power – The Garage, New Years Eve 2003. Dressed like they’d spent the season of goodwill sleeping rough in a forest, the Sea Power boys heralded this New Year with a chorus of handbells while a bagpiper earned his dram by leading all assembled through a chorus of ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’. This classic night got impressively wobblier and stranger, thanks in no small part to this fine festive entrance.
7) David Devant and his Spirit Wife – 100 Club, 2010. What more could be asked of a man in a wig and fake eyebrows calling himself ‘The Vessel’ than a lengthy monologue about a Victorian magic/spirit-summoning act complete with scene-setting passages read aloud from a book? I bet Charles Dickens public readings were as good in the 1850s.
8) King Kurt – 1983. With legs and arms in plaster, having been given a pasting by security at an earlier gig on the tour, King Kurt put on brave faces when this correspondent had the pleasure of seeing them at Exeter Riverside Club in 1983. Food fights, a snakebite-drinking contest (via a bucket and funnel) and free haircuts (anything you want as long as it’s a flat-top) de rigeur. Good times.
9) Arcade Fire – Kings College Student Union, London 2005. A sinister low-register intro drone heightened anticipation to panic-levels, before shooting spines through arses with an all-thumping, all-screaming, all-strumming ‘Wake Up’. Extraordinary.
10) MC5 – Grande Ballroom, Detroit 1968. Who could fail to be moved by Brother JC Crawford’s impassioned call to arms at the opening of the classic ‘Kick Out The Jams’ live album? “It takes five seconds, five seconds of decision to realise your purpose on this planet.” The decision, my friends, is whether to be part of the solution or the problem. But you know this. Or you should. Rhetoric aside, what a kick-ass way to start a gig, eh?