San Francisco Bathhouse
December 8 | Reviewed by Tim G

The Gossip’s recent rise as Indie darlings has created a haze of publicity, rumors and ironically gossip surrounding this band and in particular singer Beth Ditto. The phenomenon that is The Gossip is too often associated with this cloud of periphery hype. Yet tonight Ditto, Brace Paine and Hannah Billie created a spectacle that leaves any such publicity null and irrelevant. Tonight was to be the night that something special would permeate into the minds of those there and the walls of the San Francisco Bathhouse would witness something extraordinary.

Cortina are local darlings and hometown stalwarts who fuse a cool and unique blend of Synth, Classic Pop and Electro with Metal. Despite a slow start and ongoing sound problems their songs evolved through out the set as they hit their peak and found their feet. Both Ace Hurt and Beth Cogan provided charisma and quirkiness as they always do. The faithful crowd was enthused and supportive. Sound issues and some fumbling with their four-track backing tracks stifled their momentum somewhat, which was unfortunate because they’re a cool band and often command a rousing live show.

An excited buzz had swept amongst the crowd as Ditto, who is a celebrity in her own right sifted through the bar rather nonchalantly only minutes before taking stage. Sipping from a tea mug and sharing cigarettes with patrons, Ditto was unpretentious and seemingly enthusiastic to be at the Bathhouse and she would carry this attitude on to the stage.

As the trio form Portland emerged it also became apparent that sound issues were also going to plague them as they had Cortina. Ditto held up her mikes questioningly as they failed to carry the voice that we were all anticipating. It was a potentially embarrassing situation for all involved as it became apparent the whole band was having difficulties. This proved to be an ironic blessing as Ditto’s voice unexpectedly resonated over the P.A. This was the moment that we were all lifted and something special was to ensue. Despite the bands instrumental issues Ditto boldly took on a striking solo rendition of Whitney Houston’s ‘Greatest Love of All.’ The band waited patiently as we were treated to Beth Ditto and her voice in all her glory. As the song climaxed, it was time for the Gossip as a whole as they launched a rousing ‘And you know.’ It was now time for the Gossip to take control and hold us for the next hour.

Ditto was dressed in a fittingly glamorous mauve sequined dress and bare feet looking every part the Diva she is. Her stage presence is incomparable, she jived, she danced she grooved, she high fived the crowd, she hugged the crowd all the while her voice resurrected the spirits of Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and Janis Joplin. It has to be said that Dittos would have to be one of the most amazing singing voices in Indie music at the moment. She has the rasp of a ballsy Joplin when belting out punk rock leaning ‘Yr mangled Heart’ and ‘Listen Up’ whilst ‘Coal to diamonds showcased her swooning soulful voice. An adlib cover of ‘What’s love got to do with it’ also showcased a powerful and remarkable voice. Whilst comparisons are obvious hers is a voice and style that she totally makes her own.

Equally as astounding as her voice is Ditto’s charisma. Even Ditto’s crowd banter was compelling. She made the crowd feel as if the Gossip had been a local band that had returned home after a meteoric rise into Indie Stardom. She chatted and seemed genuinely thrilled to be playing in Wellington. This was not the attitude of an ‘Indie cool icon’ or ‘NME’s coolest person of 2007’; this was the attitude of a band who felt amongst friends and totally made the crowd feel like they were all a part of it.

Ditto not only overwhelmed the crowd with her musical prowess but her whole presence was warm and passionate. She held the crowd and never dropped us as if like in warm embrace, even through quitter moments she kept us engaged and involved. There was no let up, eyes were firmly on stage and Ditto’s grin was reflected in the faces of those watching.

The Gossip as a unit are effective at creating a blend of Soul and Funk with punk rock attitude. Brace Paine’s minimalist and unassuming style provides the punk gritty aspect of the band. His guitar work was tireless and was the perfect compliment to both Ditto’s singing and Hannah Billie’s drumming. Her drumming has tight elements of funk and disco that keeps the whole thing persisting along; it was stern and solid at all times. Both her and Paine kept an amazingly tight ship, providing the perfect platform for Ditto to extend and use her amazing vocal range. The members all bring three different musical elements to The Gossip but the sound they produce comes together superbly.

Ditto, by the end of the show had cradled the crowd in the palm of her hands; this was a spectacle that could have gone on forever. Following on from a thrilling ‘Standing in the Way of Control,’ she insisted the crowd on stage to chant, “Power to the people to the people to the power because the power to the people don’t stop”, and we all believed her. She had the power and she had given us the power. It was something quite spectacular that was witnessed by all tonight. The walls of the San Francisco Bathhouse will be resonating with a certain Soul Sprit forever. Tonight nothing else mattered, the publicity, the rumors the Ditto stories. Only The Gossip really mattered.

» Images by Laura Delbridge