Live at The Brudenell, Leeds 8th October 2023
Absolutely thrilling. A band drilled, tight and experienced in presentation but a band that’s having fun too. Each moment was exciting, a smile or a laugh. The audience were up for it and mostly bouncing, while also well-behaved and respectful. It takes skill for a band to inspire respect without being dry.
There’s constant motion up front, Bella doing high-kicks, Alice grinning as she hurtles about and Rakel smiling calmly as she wanders between. There’s a sense of playfulness and a delight in being there. On tour, that sense of fun is something you have to make an effort at, and they do. Sonically, the drums, hidden at the back, are the lynch-pin of the operation, punching hard and clever. But it wouldn’t be the band without Alice Go’s guitar, simple, direct and non-stop. Happy with only one guitar tone, no pedals for Alice, she riffs and plays punky guitar figures constantly, giving the spark to the operation. There’s a grin riding on top of her bean-pole figure, balanced on crazily high platform boots. Rakel Mjoll, of course, has a distinctive Icelandic / trans-Atlantic fusion accent that tweaks it all, between ironic asides and semi-screamed choruses. Bella Podpadec is in the mix but more an energetic underpinning than a highlight. We can’t all be highlights in a busy band like this and their bouncing energy, sticky-out tongue and ability to play bass guitar while rolling on the floor keep us entertained.
The band’s playfulness is there in the lyrics too and songs like the new ‘Hot’ are just great – “don’t date a musician”. There’s plenty of chat too and calls for the ‘bad bitches’ to come down the front. Hey, they even go full pantomime with a guitar / bass tournament. You might have heard these slices of the act on their 2020 live album but it’s still good stuff, as they chat about cheese and biscuit games backstage. The setlist is an hour of inspiration, from the title track of the new album to old singles (‘Hey Heartbreaker’ and F.U.U.’). All the best bands play cover versions and they cover Russian pop duo, t.A.T.u.’s ‘All The Things She Said’ from the early noughties.
But…. the least rock and roll thing I’ve ever seen….. Bella spills some water and Rakel pauses proceedings till it can be safely mopped up. Sex & Drugs & Health & Safety. Not that I’d dare say that to Rakel’s face. When she screams “Have some f*%#ing empathy”, everyone ducks.
Allegedly formed initially as an art school project, the band have become a real thing, a band full of positive messages about tolerance and respect, which thankfully is not as dull as it sounds. It just means being nice to people while you leap about and listen to rock and roll pop-punk. And strangely, when Go drops her sweaty PVC jacket, her gaffer-taped breasts are rock and roll attitude instead of an objectified display. “I am not my body, I am somebody”.
This is a band that is politically absolutely of the moment, heralds of the era, playing catchy songs, in awesome style and visually great fun too. I simply can’t think of a criticism.