What’s the Use of Eye Candy When There Has Been No Staging?

Not very interesting vocalists obscure more interesting drummer.

I am pleasantly obsessed – and yet I feel somewhat embarassed about it. Or perhaps it’s that I’m somewhat unpleasantly obsessed and I feel guilty about it! In the immortal words of I don’t know who – “whatever!”  Yes, whatever indeed. So here I am, up before dawn, with the compulsion to blog a slightly picky critique of stagecraft. I even dreamt about this topic last night, and since it got me up early, I suppose that’s where the unpleasant part comes in.

So, what’s got my knickers in a burlesque twist? Adam Ant’s two back-up singers/dancers/whatevers. And I’ll tell you why in a moment.

Last weekend, I was on my way to a tantric puja, one of the few situations in the world – besides the stage – where wild Shakti energy gets to come out and play in an utterly unimpeded manner – as raw, sexy, beguiling, or ethereal as it wants to be! As I was driving, I found myself thinking how blessedly rich we are, here in the San Francisco Bay Area, to have a swarm of active tantrikas; numerous bewitching and pioneering intellectuals (including more than a few brainy porn stars); consummate musicians (like Zoe Keating); daring performers of all stripes, including fiendishly talented belly dancers, burlesque queens, hoopers, and fire dancers; and erotic writers and artists galore. The women here – cis and trans alike – are lushly creative and aren’t stingy with their power. These days, Venus meets Vulcan at the Crucible Forge and picks up a hammer and swings. Yeah, so I appreciate being in the company and in community with such women.

And we get great shows here – oh my goodness, do we get shows! Yard Dogs Road Show and Gooferman, rock burlesque circuses like Mutaytor and Vau de Vire Society and punk cabaret like the Dresden Dolls. Brilliant, brilliant stuff. The women are integral to the shows, not just a bit of fluff for dressing up the stage. Most of them have worked hard enough at what they do to make it all look easy on stage. The women we see nowadays have honed their stage presence with finesse, playfulness, raw energy, and sex appeal galore. Honestly, when you’ve seen the Goofergirls, bellydancers like Zoe Jakes and Jill Parker, and performers like Sansa Asylum and the other gals of Yard Dogs Road Show – and I know I could name plenty more – you have to realize the bar has been raised – considerably!

Gravity Plays Favorites performing with the Vau de Vire Society, 2007.

And so I guess that I’m annoyed by the Old School “eye candy” approach taken by Adam Ant in putting two pretty girls in sexy outfits on stage as nothing more than kinetic props. The girls, who bring nothing of note in the way of dancing or vocals, are front and off to the side, and they primp and preen and make utterances when called upon, looking oh so into themselves as they wonder who can’t take their eyes off them. Honestly, these women could be doing so much more on stage. It’s a bit baffling, especially as one of them, Georgina Baillie, apparently dances with a troupe called The Satanic Sluts and you’d expect she would wheedle for a bit more to do up there. Is it that the women are not allowed, or that no one has bothered to tell them, “honey, what you’re doing is just not enough anymore?” Some kindly soul should offer to whip up a little choreography so they don’t look so pointless. Especially when they arrive in California later this year and face some pretty sophisticated audiences.

The stage is a concentrated arena. Every little thing you do or don’t do matters. In one recent video, I watch as Adam Ant struggles to take off his jacket. This simply shouldn’t happen. A man of his caliber – a known God of Rock – should have handmaidens to remove his clothing! He’s got the two women up there already! He could snap his fingers at the dames. With a wink to let us know they know they’ve got more going on in life than playing valet to Adam Ant – even if he is an acknowledged God of Rock – the women could toddle over in their heels and help the darlin’ man remove his coat. They could offer to remove even more. Not now, girls! He could wave them off, nonchalantly. They could slink back to their stations, pouting — bits of business! Something! Anything!!! Anything but those cursory little titty shakes during “Stand and Deliver,” which look more like something you’d do to get a drink off a guy in a pub. Play to the Star, relate to the audience, be part of the band! Something!!! Anything!!! Argh!!!

(This kind of thing annoys me in the same way that Dita Von Tease annoys me. Dita is wonderful to look at, but she has no relationship with the music she uses. She simply goes through her scripted motions, with flawless makeup, but there is no emotion to be had. She’s kind of like the Andie MacDowell of striptease. Vapid. Frankly, I want more from my ecdysiasts!)

On the other hand, Adam Ant’s new band, The Good, The Mad, and the Lovely Posse, has got two drummers. One of them is a woman who knows what she’s about. She gives 100% of her energy, with intrepid concentration. It doesn’t hurt that she’s beautiful as well. But she gives the refreshing appearance of not giving a damn about that because her job is to keep the beat for the rest of the band and that’s her focus. Period. She’s a drummer AND a goddess and she’s got expertise. And that makes her far more interesting than the girly girls at the mic.

Adam Ant feels that it’s time again for “a bit of sparkle, a bit of entertainment, a bit of dressing up, a little bit of real rock and roll” – but I tell you, if he thinks we’re only messing about with “sampling and kareoke” out here, he’s in for a bit of a surprise. This is the era of glitter bombing trans phobes and twirling swords and fire.

Basically, the point of this critique is that I want Adam Ant to be competitive, for heaven’s sake, so he’ll get the crowds, get the accolades, and be encouraged to bring us more music in the future. ‘Nuff said.

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