Peaches review – joyous, gender-mashing cabaret

SWG3, Glasgow
The Canadian art-pop provocateur showed striking vocal control amid an endless parade of gigantic genitalia in a boundary-pushing show

By any measure, Peaches has an enormous penis. Looming out over the audience like a semi-translucent windsock, it is 11m long, requires its own burly wrangler to deploy and is wide enough for her to clamber inside. There, held aloft by the crowd, the Canadian art-pop provocateur born Merrill Nisker sings Dick in the Air, a stripped-back, tightly drilled rebuttal to a thousand R&B booty anthems, before leading her fans in a rising chant of “dick, dick, dick”.

Is performing inside a giant bobbing phallus the strangest thing Peaches has ever done on stage? It actually feels like gender-mashing, boundary-pushing, genre-busting business as usual. In recent years, she has toured a one-woman version of Jesus Christ Superstar, taken the (usually male) lead in a German production of Monteverdi’s opera L’Orfeo and directed her own audacious rock-opera concert film Peaches Does Herself. Last September, there was also a new album, Rub, her first in six years, featuring cameos from Feist, Kim Gordon and – in the memorable music video for Light in Places – a laser pointer butt plug.

Peaches in SWG3, Glasgow.
‘The swirl of licentious choreography’ … Peaches in SWG3, Glasgow. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

The slippery beats and reconstituted trap rhythms of Rub provide the skeleton for Peaches’s current show, a dazzling mix of lo-fi ingenuity and high drama. With the help of two tireless backing dancers and an endless parade of eye-popping outfits, she transforms the rather unpromising confines of a dark, draughty warehouse into a transgressive cabaret: a lo-fi Cirque du Soleil, albeit with considerably more mooning. The costuming is often jaw-dropping – giant papier-mache masks of genitalia, day-glo post-apocalyptic S&M gear, a hairy Chewbacca-style bodysuit in hot pink – but what is perhaps even more striking is her vocal control, particularly amid the swirl of licentious choreography.

Peaches hits every note, even while sustaining tricky yoga poses or – during the frazzled arcade machine stomp of Talk to Me – tightroping along the top of a security barrier. Her voice is digitally bounced down an octave for Free Drink Ticket: suddenly, she’s Pazuzu from The Exorcist throwing some extraordinary shade. “Congratulations on being the most evasive person I have ever known,” she intones, over dread electronica that moves with the trudge of a firing squad march.

Otherwise, the mood is overwhelmingly joyous. As well as songs from Rub, she resurrects the swooning synth of I Feel Cream, a winking I Feel Love pastiche, and Boys Wanna Be Her, a swaggering electro-glam stomp. After almost 15 years, her signature track remains Fuck the Pain Away – a staple at Optimo, Glasgow’s legendary, much-missed, genre-dissolving club night – and the crowd sing it back to her word for word, even as she simultaneously sprays two bottles of champagne over the front rows.

It is a suitably immersive climax to a remarkable show by perhaps the only artist who has the metaphorical balls to match a gigantic inflatable penis. Peaches will celebrate her 50th birthday later this week with a gig in Liverpool. On this form, it will be a hell of a party.


Graeme Virtue

The GuardianTramp

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