Scissor Sisters, Nottingham Trent FM Arena, Tuesday December 14.
Seven years ago this month, a barely known Scissor Sisters played what they came to regard as a pivotal gig at The Social, leaving all who witnessed it in little doubt that they were about to become very big indeed. A show at Rock City soon followed, and the band’s debut album went on to become the biggest seller of 2004. But by the time that the Sisters returned to town in November 2006, this time for a full scale arena show, there were signs that the band were suffering something of an identity crisis. Despite containing their biggest hit to date (I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’), their second album saw the band drifting perilously towards the middle of the road – and as a live act, they didn’t seem quite ready to scale up to the demands of a larger stage.
After a long period away from public view, made all the longer by the band’s decision to scrap their third album and start again from scratch, the Sisters re-emerged this year with Night Work: a collection of songs themed around clubbing, sex and partying hard. In many ways, it felt like the natural successor to their debut. More importantly, it also sounded like the work of a band that had rediscovered its sense of purpose.
As last night’s triumphant return to Nottingham’s largest venue demonstrated, the Sisters have also grown hugely in confidence and capability as an arena-sized act. This time around, Jake Shears and Ana Matronic truly owned the stage, making full use of the space and infecting us all with their sheer love of performing. Shears in particular has matured into a charismatic showman, fearlessly strutting in his skimpy fetish gear and milking us for all he was worth. And as always, Ana was his feisty foil, her banter as quick as ever. Dedicating She’s My Man to Kate Middleton, she observed that when it comes to the Royal Family, “it’s always the women who wear the trousers”. Introducing Paul McCartney (the song, not the Beatle), she commanded us to put down our phones and to “be in the moment, instead of living your life through your view finder”. (Those who failed to comply were duly treated to foul-mouthed reprimands.) And having spent so much time in this country over the years, she declared herself to be charmed by our use of language, singling out five words for special praise: loo, knackered, gurning, minging and Bristols. As well she might.
Tellingly, just four songs from Ta-Dah now remain in the band’s set list, compared to six from the debut album – and if you had ever grown tired of hearing well-worn numbers such as Laura and Take Your Mama, then you would have fallen in love with them all over again. Perhaps the players had also fallen in love with them again; it certainly seemed that way. As for the new songs, they seemed to accrue extra power in a live setting, suggesting that they had been conceived with arena-sized performances in mind. A prime example was Any Which Way, which sounded vastly better live than in its somewhat shrill recorded version.
Finishing their main set with Filthy/Gorgeous, the Sisters saved their show-stoppers for the encore. A magnificent Fire With Fire showed that it is still just about possible to rhyme “fire” with “desire”, without sounding hopelessly corny. During I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’, Jake leapt from the stage and bounded into the raised seating blocks, serenading us from the upper rows. Finally, the epic, mesmerising Invisible Light closed the show, Sir Ian McKellen reciting his dramatic, Thriller-style monologue on the video screens. It set the seal on a superb show – their best yet in this city, if truth be told – from a band that is once again operating at the peak of its powers.
Set list: Night Work , Laura, Any Which Way, She’s My Man, Something Like This, Tits On The Radio, Harder You Get, Running Out, Take Your Mama, Kiss You Off, Mary, Skin This Cat, Skin Tight, Paul McCartney, Comfortably Numb, Night Life, Filthy/Gorgeous, Fire With Fire, I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’, Invisible Light.