The Gossip, Nottingham Rock City, Wednesday July 11
One of the more perplexing musical trends of the past few years has been the rise of the band with no bass guitar. White Stripes, Black Keys, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and now The Gossip: all of them have elected to survive on the sound of voice, lead guitar and drums alone. It’s a bold and uncompromising move, and yet not without its drawbacks. For when all is said and done, rock music – and especially live rock music – needs bass. It’s as simple and as inescapable as that.
That said, guitarist Brace Paine did an admirable and at times uncanny job at fleshing out the band’s sound. More often than not, he had the knack of simultaneously combining lead guitar riffs with funky basslines, in a way that left you wondering just how it was done.
Given such a minimalist backing, the vocalist’s job is rendered all the more difficult, and in many respects Beth Ditto rose to the challenge admirably. Beneath the fashionable punk-funk trappings and the in-your-face attitude, she has the voice of a classic blues-rock shouter. Lurching around the stage in her lemon yellow mini-dress, she may have given the impression of barely controlled chaos – but the delivery remained gloriously pitch-perfect throughout.
Perhaps the biggest problem lay with the band’s material, which essentially consisted of minor variations on the theme of their breakthrough hit (and instant classic) Standing In The Way Of Control. Unless you were intimately familiar with the songs – and plenty were – there was something inescapably one-dimensional about their sound. It was telling that, despite having three albums under their belts, the set only clocked in at a miserly fifty-five minutes, including the encore. Perhaps such a tightly restricted range simply couldn’t have been sustained for longer.