Nancy Hogg + Anna Gorick report on Gossip - Cambridge Corn Exchange, 11 September 2007

Artist Visiting Cambridgeshire
Review 1: by Nancy Hogg

Heard the latest? As those in the know will know, Gossip arrived in town on Tuesday night to perform a barnstorming set to a hot and sweaty Corn Exchange.

Formed in 1999 and inspired, in part, by the riot grrrl sound of the1990's Gossip purvey a delectable mix of blues, rock and punk. Outspoken and visually arresting, describing herself as ‘the perfect size 22', the ubiquitous Ditto has become a cultural entity in her own right as well as a figurehead for feminism, gay rights and all out punk rock attitude.

From the outset, Ditto, barefoot and donning a slinky black dress, is at ease with the audience opening the show by declaring irreverently ‘Hey, Cambridge is as old as sh*t' before launching into the first of a raucous set. Throughout the show she bops from one side of the stage to the other, engaging the crowd with every wiggle. However, despite the amazing stage presence and gargantuan magnetism it is the voice that really astonishes. Boy, can this girl sing - swooping from soulful banshee to pure Dolly Parton confessional in the blink of a heavily mascara'd eye.

The set is relentless, recalling the energy of The Slits and Sonic Youth. Obvious high-lights of the evening are Jealous Girls and Standing in the Way of Control written as a response to the American government's stance on gay marriage; the powerful message of the song only upstaged by the rage of its delivery.

Gossip are many things to many people - gay rights icons, cool celebrity hipsters but most importantly they are fast, furious and feminist delivering the essence of C.B.G.B's cool like it never went out of style. Remember when you heard it first!

Review 2: by Anna Gorick

Who is Beth Ditto? Well, if you've happened to pick up any trashy ‘gossip' magazine over the last 12 months then you'll know. And let's face it, anyone who frequents hairdressers', dentists' waiting rooms or areas designated for employees to escape, will have been exposed to dozens. The national pastime of scrutinising the A to Z of stars habits boggles the mind, yet this isn't an anthropological study of leisure pursuits in western culture.

It's about the big news in the world of pop's gigantically (literally) fantastic band whose female singer has managed to defiantly stick her fingers up at common perceptions of sexiness in women. Ditto weighs in at 15 stone, which is ample fodder for the media to rip apart and spit out all manner of insults. Yet, this woman is deemed to have single-handily slammed all the ‘skinny-equals-beauty' notions into the ground. Ditto smoulders red-hot attraction on stage. Her performance is breathtakingly vibrant and energetic; the product of her lungs and vocal chords literally pour out of her. Anyone who sings like that should be on the pedestal of having sheer (excuse this crass example) X factor. The vision of a bit of a larger woman dressed in a tarnished shimmer of spandex just added to the effect of being in awe of a person's talent.

The three-piece band played a tight set. Hannah Blilie on Drums and Brace Paine simultaneously playing electric and bass guitar maintained a sync that replicated twins being born to Mozart. The diversity of sound might make a stranger to the band turn in disbelief that it is in fact just a trio.

The Portland, US based artists hit song Standing in the Way of Control gained British popularity for advertising the Channel 4 television programme, Skins. Ditto wrote it in response to the Bush government's Christian-influenced denial of marriage for the same-sexed. As Ditto performs to the Cambridge audience, she pertinently adds to the lyrics a belting of ‘Power to the people'. This testimony towards the inclusion of all in law and civil rights ignites both goose bumps and a mass of bodies bouncing to the beat.

Ditto is in fact a lesbian herself. I wonder if this is the reason why she's accepted as a symbol of alluring magnetism, neither a threat to the heterosexual female nor object of gaze for the straight male, thus appealing to a minority group and not treading on too many toes?

The night was astounding and I only wish the revered, yet sadly deceased radio DJ John Peel could have witnessed the festival of the marginalized (thanks to Bush not budging). The Gossip are proud to lament that ‘John Peel lives' on their myspace page - what a delightful fictional statement to broadcast.

On reflection, can there not be more individuals under societys gaze that care about issues such as equality and fairness, rather than simply displaying insatiable appetites for achieving the latest evening silhouette? Much more influential figures in entertainment like Beth Ditto and her band; The Gossip are needed to raise the stakes of what is sometimes seen as compliant and superficial. Power to the people, please pick up some pace.