IAMX / Noblesse Oblige

Koko, London - 19 April 2009

"IAMX are one of the best live bands on the planet"

IAMX gig posterNoblesse ObligeOne half of support act Noblesse Oblige, the half named Sebastian, used to be one half of Silence Is Sexy. I mourned the loss of SiS so was overjoyed to know that Sebastian was up to new stuff. Now teamed up with a tall, lithe French female vocalist called Valerie Renay, Sebastian continues to push the creative boundaries. On Noblesse Oblige's MySpace page, in place of the usual rambling list of eclectic bands that most cite as influences, they simply list the three essential Klauses: Klaus Kinski, Klaus Nomi and Santa Klaus! I'm half surprised not to see Klaus Barbie on there too for, as one teenage girl standing in front of me observed: "They're proper creepy - don't you think?".

If by creepy she meant off-beat, original and challenging then I'd have to say yes. Being on the bleeding edge as they are, Noblesse Oblige frustrate as much as they reward. The safer haven of the pop song structures that Silence Is Sexy so expertly manipulated to thrilling effect live have been abandoned in favour of a more cerebral, almost performance art delivery. Both members share duties and roles. Both sing, both play keyboards, both hit percussion but Sebastian mostly strikes his electric guitar whilst Valerie strides around warbling impressively.

There's a lot of playfulness in their approach and in what they do, but it's an intellectual playfulness that often (one imagines deliberately) requires the listener to form their own judgement of just where Noblesse Oblige sit and, why exactly, they sit there. Take Daddy, Don't Touch Me There a song about parental paedophilia - this drew almost universal howls of laughter - part incredulous, part going along with the sense of deadpan humour with which it is delivered. The response seemed to be the one NO would appreciate (assuming they actually care at all).

A rendition of first single Bitch was spot on and, though I'll loose credibility for saying it, I much preferred the less playful efforts at writing great tunes and songs like Jalouse and Tanz Mephisto!. Though not quite the phoenix rising from the long cold ashes of Silence Is Sexy (the expectation of which I had clearly had built up in my mind) Noblesse Oblige are nevertheless a wellspring of creativity that demand to be heard if not always fully understood.

IAMX With their third album Kingdom of Welcome Addiction just released, Chris Corner's IAMX persona project continues to go from strength to strength. Not that I buy them these days, but the music papers and influential websites (which you've never been able to buy in your local Forbouys) must be lauding IAMX up big time. Either that or/and the band is the very epitome of the definition of a cult band, as tonight's large and rabid crowd cannot wait for their hero to take to the stage. Although having seen IAMX twice before, the first time at the much smaller Islington Academy, already I feel more like an observer than a follower.

But I want to be a follower! They're such a cool, eclectic bunch of hipsters, Goths, glamour boys, burlesque performers and alt.alternative indie rockers, several sporting top hats in honour of the main man on stage (except, of course, he has already moved on, Bowie-like with the next incarnation of his stage persona.) One imagines that for most in the audience IAMX are their most favoured artist. The perfectly lip-synched singing of all around me, even on the very latest songs, suggests IAMX fans are about as fanatical as fans come. Worth making it clear then that their adulation isn't misplaced. IAMX (and by that I essentially mean Chris Corner) are one of the most thrilling live acts I've ever seen. There's an energy, edginess and dynamism to their gigs that few can currently match.

We got a good sampling of the just released thrilling third album and the mostly mid-tempo new material was devoid of a single weak link and made an impressive immediate impact. Recent free download, the brilliant Think of England is a great insight into Corner's current writing style and, thankfully, he seems concerned only about the integrity of the compositions with little concern for external expectations of what he 'should' be delivering. Listening to the chorus of this soulful (if rocking) lament almost brings tears to one's eyes. IAMX stand head and shoulders above almost everyone around them. There can be no reservations now, IAMX are one of the best live bands on the planet right now, the very definition of the word "essential". I somehow just need to feel it more, be an integral part of it next time; I won't stop trying, that's for sure. 8/10

Rob Dyer