The stage is a place without limits – it’s only the limitations of the performers and writers, and the struggle within the audience that restricts the enjoyment of entertainment and art – so when the world leader of transgressive creation, Christeene tributes arch boundary explorer Sinead O’Connor “her capacity to survive, her private and very public wars with the church, her compassion and vulnerability” – it’s a performance that promises to go all the way to the depravities of dirt and backroom humilation and pleasure that echo beneath the super-structure that religion inflicts upon our abilities to find ourselves.
And yes, Christeene’s performance, outdoes itself in breadth, from fragility, of needing help to put on platform boots, but having to battle through as a survivor in a series of handmade butthole leotards – one for every song: “Sometimes we put things on to feel pretty…Sometimes we put things on cos we stole them…”
She puts on a curtain tassel endearingly, this girl can wear a bin bag, or her pair of stocking pants that show her to be Michelangelo’s David of modern times.
This special one-off Barbican night, entitled THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE COBRA is an absolute SOLD OUT hot ticket, with the great and good of gay being in attendance (Marc Almond of Bedsit Land, Mark Moore of S-Express, Martin Green the DJ and curator, James Jeanette of Wild Daughter) – it’s a veritable music hall elite of clubland’s who’s who looking over their opera glasses – it’s the best dressed crowd the Barbican will see for years.
“The world is an extremely mad fucked-up place, but there are still hidden gems catching light in the darkness. I feel in my gut, deeply, that this night will be one of them. I’ve assembled a beautiful team of collaborators to execute this dream who all share the same love for Sinéad ‘s work and this album. This project and this album deeply resonate with all people involved.”
Reverberating from bursts of quotes, sampled, coming from the dark, Christeene opens the show, rising in a 20 metre cape, as a mountain of bandaged burkha wails, this is a show that gives strength.
A rally cry for revolt to be wild, to wear expressionistic clothes, to not be closeted into conformity, to smell each other on the streets,
More light rises to see four fe-strings “with bits of wood on their shoulders and between their legs”, and a predominantly female band from her native Austin Texas, and work in New York. The music is directed by Peter Stopschinski, with some excellent minimal medieval beats, and Joy Division-esque superlativeness in her song Jackie. Essentially, this is a series of songs. With only the encore being one we’ve heard before, which holds superficial Americana as a trash nightmare.
Her trademark skat-crack-alien-whore musicial vibes have the smell of post-modern Rocky Horror. There’s some semblance of order and interrogation of purpose in her deconstruction of identity.
“The pigs took over the palace” she laughs, “I come from the dirt,” like a JT Leroy novel, rat tail extension swinging horsetail upon the slit of defiantly waving her arse orifice towards the universe. It’s not as grotesque now, as our own Lucy McCormack, who she shared a stage with at Jonny Woo’s carnival in Hackney Empire last year, this is Christeene getting closer to stadiums, a marker of how far subculture is now the only culture where anything interesting is said.
“Find your ritual,” she demands. Calling out the “scum shit of religion” – this is a modern US pain.
She finds the bird inside herself, inside her head, to rise each morning.
But it’s on her duet with Peaches, who upstages our bride in a latice fetish shellshit with rubber bubble boobs, that their Old Lovers hate song reaches heights of neu.
The show peaks with John Grant appearing as a super-bandit bear, in black to vibrate against her, his is the Oscar for supporting actor – in perspex heels, lifting her off stage with the kiss her confrontation demands. Tonight the Barbican is ours, our church which continues to face the oppression of freedom.
There are so many directions the stage can take us in, but at its strongest, it will always suck the mic of patriarchal control like the cock it is, and spew it out like spit on a long march to freedom.
Photos: TOM HOWARD/BARBICAN.
CHRISTEENE lead vocals
Kerri Atwood, backing vocals
Roddy Bottum, keys
Viva DeConcini, lead guitar
Mary Feaster, bass guitar
Rachel ‘Spanky’ Fuhrer drums
Peter Stopschinski keys, musical director
Thomas Graves, T GRAVEL
Silky Shoemaker, DAWG ELF
Eos Counsell, violin
Anna Phoebe, violin
Laurie Anderson, viola (seriously? that was very quiet)
Klara Schumann, cello
The Special Guests