Friday, 19 November 2010

!!! @ KOKO

It’s a cliché, but it’s one for a reason. !!! Chk-chk-chk (or even Bam-Bam-Bam or Boff-Boff-Boff – it’s up to you) are best seen live. It’s not that we don’t love their albums. And they’ve produced some cracking singles in their 14-year run. Their videos are also consistently brilliant (we especially loved the one they shot for Jamie, 'My Intentions are Bass'). It’s just that on record you can’t see lead singer Nic Offer’s dance moves.

As he slides and thrusts his way across the stage, windmill arms flailing, twirling like a kid at a birthday party and sweating like a motherbitch, you can just tell that this is where he belongs. One minute he’s bumping 'n’grinding like R Kelly, the next he’s prowling like Jagger and thrusting like Prince. Even though he looks like the nerdiest of indie kids (think Michael Cera’s older bro) you definitely would. It only takes him two songs before he’s in the crowd, bouncing along the front row, sticking his mic in his mouth and, indeed, into anyone who happens to have theirs open. Arms around his fans, singing along and spreading the love, he definitely has the X factor.

Not that the rest of the band are any different. They are the real stars of the night, keeping up the jazz funk oomph, never dropping a beat, and making the whole event look like an effortless jam session without ever making the crowd feel excluded. Singer Shannon Funchess (who comes across somewhere between Grace Jones and Skunk Anansie) has as much energy as a sugar-fuelled infant and looks like even if you offered her a billion pounds she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.

She also has an amazing style, working a canary yellow t-shirt, bright red jeans and a matching pillar-box hat that means you can’t take your peepers off her. This is no mean feat considering how crowded the stage is. Between them the band are rocking triangles, tambourines, synths, guitars, two drum kits, trumpets, sexy saxophones and bongos (the international symbol for 'party') but trying to define the sound they’re making with them is harder than anything. My notes for ‘Steady as the Sidewalk Cracks’ read “Blissed out? Punk? Samba? Jazz? Style Council? Roxy Music? 'Young Americans'-era Bowie? What the fuck is it?!”

The truth is no one much cares. Everybody is too busy dancing. The momentum never lets up once, with the transitions between tracks so seamless that you barely notice the songs have changed. And as one song rolls in to the other, like waves of sound, the old adage that indie kids don’t dance is thoroughly disproved. More shapes are being thrown than a discus champion in a rhombus factory. As the encore rolls round (a 15-minute swirling jazz-funk-out that never grates for a moment) the crowd are practically on their knees begging for more and the whole group are feeding off the vibes. “Why leave the stage when we’re having so much fun?” asks Nic, and curfew aside, you’ve got to agree. They may be best known as a live act but when their show is this explosive, is that a bad thing?

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