Peaches – review

Meltdown, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Berlin-based artist, rapper and sex educationalist Peaches thrives on confrontation and subversion. On an average night in her company, that involves a lot of swearing, gender-blurring and frank discussion of genitalia; for this gig at Meltdown, it meant demonstrating her abiding love of the 1971 Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, by performing its nine principal parts and motley supporting characters herself. This isn't just hubris: it's a messiah complex in overdrive.

But she pulls if off, mainly because her performance is wholehearted in its reverence. She takes such care over her characterisation, softening her voice for Mary Magdalene, roughening it for Jesus, introducing a whining note of anxiety for Judas, that each individual emerges clearly. And although her movements are simple – mostly she poses like a Pentecostal preacher, arms outstretched and feet stepping stiffly from side to side – her face is enjoyably animated throughout, eyebrows beetling in moments of earnest emotion, chin jutting whenever a Roman is about, features melting with hope as Mary thinks adoringly of Jesus.

Is it enough to fill a room as big as the Queen Elizabeth Hall? Just about. Without the distraction of laser lights and outrageous props, there's plenty of space to appreciate the piano arrangements (by Peaches' equally confrontational and subversive friend, Chilly Gonzales, but performed here by Mathias Halvorsen), which cleverly blend key idioms from Andrew Lloyd Webber's orchestrations – the ragtime that accompanies Herod's mocking confrontation, the AOR balladry of Mary's signature song, I Don't Know How to Love Him – with a frenetic drama and delicacy of their own. The purity of the endeavour, the total absence of irony, means the show frequently becomes mind-boggling – but it's by playing it straight that Peaches challenges her audience most.

• What have you been to see lately? Tell us about it on Twitter using #GdnGig

Contributor

Maddy Costa

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Double Fantasy Live – review

Molinari does Lennon, Peaches does Yoko but Siouxsie steals the show as Meltdown closes with the 1980 album's first live performance, writes Betty Clarke

Betty Clarke

24, Jun, 2013 @5:06 PM

Article image
Peaches Christ Superstar review – all killer, no filler in rock-opera homage

Peaches extracts every ounce of pathos and comedy from the 1970 Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, writes Caroline Sullivan

Caroline Sullivan

20, May, 2014 @12:19 PM

Article image
Iggy Pop and the Stooges – review

More than four decades into his career, Pop is still a frantic ball of quivering, stage-diving energy, writes Mark Beaumont

Mark Beaumont

21, Jun, 2013 @4:57 PM

Patti Smith – review

This progenitor of punk was joined by her two children, and the maternal side of Smith added an unexpected dimension to a life explored in poetry, recollections and readings, says Betty Clarke

Betty Clarke

23, Jun, 2013 @5:41 PM

Article image
Ryuichi Sakamoto/Alva Noto – review

Sound textures shimmered appealingly, while Sakamoto's melodies made his mood music seem epic, writes John Lewis

John Lewis

20, Jun, 2013 @4:53 PM

Article image
Laura Marling review – breathy and sublime as she takes a tantric night off
Royal Festival Hall, London
Guy Garvey’s Meltdown festival sees the nu-folk siren with a newfound ease, her voice beautifully matured, growing in versatility and authority

Betty Clarke

19, Jun, 2016 @11:21 AM

Article image
Chrissie Hynde review – a far from memorable Meltdown performance
Hynde is rarely more than businesslike as she mixes new compositions, covers and a trawl through her back catalogue, writes Betty Clarke

Betty Clarke

15, Jun, 2014 @12:44 PM

Article image
Radkey review – young punks deliver a fast, furious and flashy set
This Meltdown festival offering saw the Missouri trio light up a concrete basement with their telekenetic tightness, writes Kate Hutchinson

Kate Hutchinson

18, Jun, 2014 @1:23 PM

Article image
MIA review – pulling up the people with cosmopolitan global pop
Closing out a radical Meltdown, the festival’s curator was in a celebratory mood – but her outsider pop still packed a political punch

Sam Wolfson

19, Jun, 2017 @12:43 PM

Article image
Sunn O))) review – elemental assault between a 747 and Satan's helicopter
With a schlocky Hammer Horror aesthetic, Sunn O))) worship decibels and endurance – the musical equivalent of slow death from aggressive disease

Mark Beaumont

19, Aug, 2015 @2:47 PM