Pop review: Peaches, Royal Festival Hall, London

Royal Festival Hall, London

The Peaches experience is a cross between art installation, burlesque night and circus, with the Canadian singer, born Merrill Nisker, as ringmaster and main attraction. It is so far removed from the typical rock gig that she solicitously asks whether anyone is "having their first Peaches show tonight". When a few people squeal affirmatively, she counsels: "Don't be afraid". She may be confrontational and swear like a rapper, and some of her music is pretty hideous, but there is nothing to be afraid of.

Of course, those who find themselves in her path when she hops offstage and charges through the audience, growling into stunned faces, might feel differently. But even they would have to admit that, at heart, Peaches is a benevolent force. She is serious about her self-imposed task of forcing her public to question their beliefs about sex and sexuality. When she urges the men in the house to Shake Yer Dix in the song of that name, it's in an emancipatory spirit, and that also goes for her wearing a catsuit whose crotch lights up every time she sings the title of her best-known number, Fuck the Pain Away.

Apart from a roaring duet with her keyboardist on Kick It, the music - staccato electronic beats in the first half, awful, grinding heavy metal in the second, and Peaches chanting in a girlish monotone throughout - is of secondary importance. The main things are the message and the striking visuals. Peaches changes from fringed gauntlets to catsuit to silver robes; she levitates across the stage; during Talk to Me, from new album I Feel Cream, she's surrounded by dancers dressed as lampshades. It's Madonna on a budget, but much more fun - and enlightening - than Madonna will ever be.


Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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