Sean O'Hagen, I Am Curious Orange review, Sadler's Wells, London

New Musical Express, ?? 1988




I ABANDONED my notes somewhere between the bomb blast that ended the Celtic Rangers fannydancer's cup final and the attack of the giant french fries. Thus liberated from the constraints of a theoretical analysis, I abandoned myself to the chaos on stage. Zen like, I merged into a state of complete oneness with the noise, the movement and the sight of Leigh Bowery dressed as a tin of Heinz Beans.

My first reaction was sheer relief; none of the assembled multitudes stood up for the national anthem. Mind you, they didn't stand up for The Fall either. Instead we all set a little deeper in our seats and hoped we weren't the only ones totally mystified by the events up there and their relationship (a) to William Of Orange and (b) to us, the punters. Willy nilly Michael and his troupe of pros and old troupers (Hi, Leigh) moved from set piece to set piece.

Orange and green chiffon tutus, pink frills and feathers, black and white body stockings all draped round fat ones, skinny ones and athletic ones. The Celtic-Rangers game was a hoot but I couldn't figure out who was Souness cos everybody was going over the top. And someone should have, at least, attempted to head the bomb.

Like everyone I talked to afterwards, my attention had by now settled on The Fall. Mark E. sat on a giant letter O, Brix pranced and preened and, in swimsuit perched on a giant Big Mac, almost upstaged Leigh Bowery's bean tin. Almost. After a while, the loose limbed semi- choreographed shenanigans on stage took a severe drubbing at the hands of the sonic assault coming from the amps. This was The Fall in a new context - innovatory, exciting, iconoclastic - all the adjectives you'd heard applied to Michael Clark.

Basically, tonight, the rock music whitewashed the modern dance. The Fall were an aural equivalent of everything the dance was meant to be -- total sophisticated primitivism (I kid you not). They have forged a sound that recalls The Velvets' garage thrust in all its sublime, primal glory whilst, simultaneously, sounding sleek and brand new (shit, they even had a costume change). Blake's 'Jerusalem' was venomous and disdainful, 'Frenz' emerged out of an acid house parody like the revenge of the righteous and 'Bremen Nacht' sounded like another band from another planet.

Where Sadler's Wells' serious cultural connotations may have defeated a lesser bunch, Smith and Co revelled in the space, the event and the fact that this was probably the best - sharpest, cleanest - they've ever sounded. Out front, Clark seemed content to cruise on his (over-played) enfant terrible reputation whilst around him, the sublime dancing of Ellen Van Schuylenburch collided with the non-dancingof Bowery and Co.

The McDonaldisation of England's green and pleasant land merged into a backdrop of The Houses Of Parliament whilst the youth culture tribalism of rock, dance culture and football merged into a series of semi-improvised set pieces. Unsurprisingly the only element of cohesian and sustained energy came from the motley crew at the back, fired up on primitive telepathy and the Hip Priest semaphore of their sneering, hectoring frontman.

The first game, then, was a walkover for the Manchester team and proof, if needed, that the Prole Art Threat is still intact. Despite all my reservations, this collaboration explores more potential possibilities than a thousand and one nights staring at another band over another beer. Go!