wed 16/04/2014

Noisettes, Oran Mor, Glasgow | New music reviews, news & interviews

Noisettes, Oran Mor, Glasgow

Otherworldly vocal powerhouse dance pop hits the spot

Otherworldly: Noisettes' Shingai Shoniwa

There is something so otherworldly about Shingai Shoniwa, the vocal powerhouse who fronts Noisettes, that it is unsurprising to see the band play on it. Shoniwa arrived onstage in a blaze of light, in a spinning gold-hooped skirt that seemed to mimic a flying saucer in the chaos, before launching into a storming rendition of the band’s “I Want You Back”. The illusion lasted as long as it took her to kick off her towering gold high heels and attempt a terrible Scottish accent at the end of the first song.

Although built around a duo - Brit School graduates Shoniwa and Daniel Smith, the band’s guitarist - for the purposes of their Glasgow show there were an additional four Noisettes to replicate the feel-good disco anthems that characterise their signature sound. The band’s third album, Contact, is exquisitely produced but make no mistake, Noisettes did not come to deliver some aloof, polished pop performance but rather to make people dance.

And dance we did, in the face of Shinowa’s threat to “terrorise” us with “beautiful music all night” and force us to sing along, and orders to “rock” the basement of the converted chapel that is the Oran Mor. The band’s ubiquitous breakthrough hit, “Go Baby Go (Don’t Upset the Rhythm)”, generally demands nothing less, and skilfully mixed with Nineties Eurodance hit “Rhythm is a Dancer” the song became a Europhoric anthem. The mash-up was followed by “Let the Music Play” from Contact, another disco classic in the making, as if to make a mockery of the early curfew that loomed for the venue’s traditional Thursday club night. As Shinowa half-disappeared for an inelegant costume change at the back of the small stage, Smith cracked out a screaming guitar solo with his teeth. Possibly. At least, it was probably meant to look that way and was brilliant regardless.

That their versatility makes Noisettes such a compelling act, musically, is obvious

With Shinowa on stage in something a little more regal - albeit still trimmed with neon - for their new album’s title track and big ballad, it quickly became clear that the second half of the set would allow her to display the versatile vocals that made this year’s release so exciting. “That Girl”, its playful melody reminiscent of 1960s girl groups, was a singalong treat while “Ragtop Car”, the album’s surprise country number, was performed beautifully by Smith on ukulele.

That their versatility makes Noisettes such a compelling act, musically, is obvious; but what makes them so much fun to watch is the energy, the costumes and the fact that last night they were clearly having just as much fun as the audience. It was on the slower numbers that their choice of Josephine Oniyama - a young Manchester-based songwriter with a rich gospel voice, playing calypso rhythms on acoustic guitar - as tour support began to make more sense: there’s a depth to Noisettes’ songwriting that’s not necessarily present on the sort of cheesy, if incredibly catchy, big dance-pop number you’d expect to find soundtracking a certain car advert.

An hour-long set drawn predominantly from an album that’s only a few months old might not be to everybody’s taste, but it would be hard to feel short-changed on the strength of this performance. Besides, it’s not like those who felt the need to keep dancing had nowhere to go.

As Shinowa half-disappeared for an inelegant costume change at the back of the small stage, Smith cracked out a screaming guitar solo with his teeth

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