Nuclear war on the dance floor: Electric Six @ Neumos 11.15.09

The last time I saw Detroit disco-rock outfit Electric Six live was in 2004 in 111-degree heat at Coachella where they put on a great set inside a dance tent. I was very curious to check them out five years later in a dark nightclub on a cool rainy night to see how they’ve improved. Here’s what I thought about their show with The Gay Blades and Millions of Brazillians on Sunday night at Neumos.

Electric Six :: by Travis Hay

Millions of Brazilians: This trio came off sounding like a Detroit-flavored Arctic Monkeys. Lots of squealy guitar effects and some pretty updeat dance-friendly numbers. Not too bad for a three-piece that features two guitarists and a drummer.

The Gay Blades: I really wanted to dislike this band based solely on the premise of the fact that their band name sucks. Then I walked past the merch booth and they told me off in the form of band shirts that say “No, your band name sucks.” They get points for having a sense of humor. Jokes aside (you’ve got to admit that band name is pretty lame), as much as I wanted them to suck, the band was pretty good. They rocked as hard as two people could without being, say, Death From Above 1979. I was impressed with how easily they went from making the crowd move with fun, upbeat pop numbers to making the crowd mosh with loud, screamy songs that almost bled into heavy metal territory.

Electric Six: The band has a new record out and, well, it’s not their worst album (that would be Switzerland) but it is definitely not their best. Aside from the new material, the highlight of which was “Egyptian Cowboy” (a song Craig Finn should karaoke to), the set was solid dose of dirty, sexed-up disco-rock . Singer Dick Valentine upped his game a bit since the last time I saw him, graduating from being a bit of a lounge singer in a leisure suit to a rock ‘n’ roll infomercial pitchman in pinstripes. During the pause near the end of “Improper Dancing” where Valentine shouts “Stop!” the band broke into INXS’ “Never Tear Us Apart” after which Valentine proclaimed “Continue!” and the band went about finishing the song.

But the band’s showmanship and humor wasn’t every really in question considering “Gay Bar” was followed by “Gay Bar Part 2” which was followed by “She’s White,” a song that is about, well, a white girl and in the middle of “Danger! High Voltage” Valentine did about two dozen push ups. That all might seem strange to the first time E6 watcher but really it’s just a part of the shtick, which is one of the better in rock today. And it is that very shtick that makes Electric Six a much better band live than on record. Hopefully the next time Valentine and his band come through town they’ll have a set of songs to support that at least matches the quality of the band’s showy comedy.

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