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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

October 24, 2009 at 1:10 PM

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Concert review: Gossip at the Showbox (UPDATED with video)

Posted by Andrew Matson

Portland band Gossip worked the downtown Showbox's sold-out showroom Friday, Oct. 23rd with uncommon heart and energy, reinvigorating the notion of rock 'n' roll as a exorcistical force and making other bands seem boring and lazy by comparison.

Dance-tempo rock filled the room, and the floor pulsed from mass jumping, packed with about a thousand sweaty people acting as one and tracking every move singer Beth Ditto made. She was all over the stage, often hitting notes in mid-air, mid-bound, and other times strutting while she sang, waving her hand like divas do.

When she doubled over and let loose the tuneful scream only Ditto does—a feature in every Gossip song—the effect was so powerful it would have made visual sense if everyone in front of her was blasted straight to the back wall. Instead, it pulled people closer and the floor pulsed harder.

Before she worked the room, Ditto worked the Showbox's will call line, ever the non-star. Concert-goers who missed that fact are pardoned because with her close-cropped dyed-orange hair and unassuming demeanor, she blended in with the Showbox staff.

Gossip has local roots going back to 1999—Seattle, then Olympia, now Portland—and between songs Ditto made serial reference to how many people she personally knew in the room, shouting out her partner's family, a large group of artists that inspired/inspires her, and drummer Hannah Blilie's mom, who was in the audience. Blilie's hometown Kirkland got a mention, too.

The music was mostly from new Gossip album "Music For Men," and performed with unflashy touring bassist, Chris Sutton. Blilie's simple drums were clear and effectively booming, Nathan "Brace Paine" Howdeshell's guitar and synths slashed and bleated, just as they were supposed to, and Ditto sang alternately sweetly and like a woman possessed. Musical highlights were a slightly-uptempo version of "Music For Men" sleeper "2012," a blistering encore of "Standing in the Way of Control," still Gossip's best-known track, and a surprise rendition of Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do With It."

Gossip's live appeal hinges on the ecstatic feeling of the concert itself, which in turn hinges on each member doing her/his job (which they seem to always do). There are basically two Gossip concerts, good ones and really amazing ones, and Friday's was the latter. Gauche as it seems to say, either you were there or you weren't.

"What's Love Got to Do with It"

"Four Letter Word"

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