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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-09-06



BENT NIGHTS The Ting Tings; 'The Devil's Cabaret'
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Vern Hester

This article shared 4445 times since Tue Apr 21, 2015
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For those who just wouldn't embrace The Ting Tings' third CD, Super Critical, as fully as the first two, you can't say you didn't know better.

The Brit duo's ( Katie White on vocals/guitar/percussion and Jules De Martino on vocals and drums ) band name translates from mandarin as "the sound of innovation on an open mind," so you had to take that as a warning. In fewer than seven years, five top 10 worldwide hit singles, numerous tours and those full-lengths, The Ting Tings have combined punk, disco, sassy girl-group pop, EDM and blunt rock into a supple whole. The big question begged by the act's recent sold out show at Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport St., was not how much they have changed but how much they had not.

After an alternately sensual and abrasive set from openers KANEHOLLER, it was clear that this show was designed to overwhelm the senses and ignite frenzied ass wiggling. Between Jon Foster's deft hand on his laptop and Chelsea Taylor's ragged and alluring vocals ( think of Billie Holiday channeled through Courtney Love ), the energy in the room was set on overload.

By the time White ripped into "Do It Again" to kick her show off, the audience had been transported to another dimension, which came as a surprise to me. Recently, I have bitched about the technical set-up in Thalia Hall, with banks of stage lights seemingly aimed at the audience. This time there was a balance with a fair amount of illumination coming from over the performers rather than from behind and it made all the difference. In the case of this band in this space, the effect was like being engulfed in a warm cocoon of throbbing lights and sound, which made for a heady immersive feeling. It didn't hurt that White bopped about in sneakers ( she makes Converse All-stars sexy ) while thrashing away at her guitar with her hair pinned up and bouncing in her face, ultimately turning the night into a nutty take on Romper Room.

The hits came early and fast ( "Great DJ," "Hang it Up," "Hands," a show closing, stripped down "Super Critical" ) but here they became far larger then the original recordings suggested. "That's Not My Name" and "Shut Up and Let Me Go" may have been unnervingly catchy in studio versions, but with the entire audience screaming along they had the bitchy sting of schoolyard taunts.

As for my question at the start of this column, I got my answer early in the show. From the moment The Ting Tings got onstage, everyone within a 15-foot radius of me was in constant motion; the two ladies to my right ( who kept unintentionally whipping my face with their ponytails ), the college boys from Iowa ( who kept jumping up and down like frisky puppies ) and the three full-figured ladies to my left ( who body slammed me so completely that I had to question my queerness ). Just what kind of music The Ting Tings are making these days is really beside the point, since the message is still the same: Free your mind and your ass will follow.

On another note, I caught a performance of Redmoon Theater's The Devil's Cabaret on April 3 in its massive space at 2120 S. Jefferson St., and got sucker-punched at the door. The title of the event was a tease ( which is appropriate, being that Satan loves to manipulate common mortals ) since "cabaret" implies a small, intimate setting while this show was closer to a full-scale, three-ring circus. Then, there is Redmoon calling itself "theater" for its spectacles, which is like calling the Queen Mary a boat.

With a cackling, overupholstered Satan ( Kasey Foster, having a high old time ) presiding, this epic was a giddy joyride through the Seven Deadly Sins. Equal parts flash and trash, the show came loaded with one absurd over-the-top concept after another, and had the vibe of Cecil B. DeMille going apeshit on wine coolers in pre-code 1920s Hollywood.

So where can one start with this and make it make sense? First, there was a horned chanteuse ( Danielle Nicholas ) perched atop a grand piano slinking through suggestive ballads while she, the piano, and the pianist were hoisted 30 feet over the audience. There was a shadow-puppet performance that acknowledged the arts of pantomime, puppetry and silent -ilm making. Then there was the chorus of fetching demonic disciples who whipped off their robes to shake some serious booty while accompanied by a hard-edged rock band situated above them on a massive rotating multi-purpose three-story set. ( There were also lots of shirtless hunky guys in Arabian pants who made themselves useful by doing everything from playing violins and pianos to draping themselves all over said structure like laundry hanging in the breeze. ).

Oh, yes: There was flying, and lots of it ( 50 percent of the show took place over the audience ) with acrobats, an operatic take on "envy" from a caged mad woman and a hot-dog eating contest ( which presented another type of "flying" with food hurling out of the participant's mouths ). Then there was that finale, which featured lots of skin and fire, and I don't mean some lame-ass chorus line of tacky ill-fitted chlorines doing lazy half-kicks with a couple of flash pots included. This finale had such vulgar energy and pizzazz that it nearly upstaged everything that came before it. We're talking an assortment of buff half-dressed women and men ( those bitches were FIT!!! ) strewn on that structure spitting fire at the audience with that band going full blast with the drummer and his kit suspended over the audience while all of it was spun around like a possessed toy top. The spectacle may have been impressive, but the ideas behind it made it one for the memory books. ( Who dreams up this stuff, anyway? ) Maybe Redmoon is not doing "theater" in the traditional sense, but whatever it is that it is doing ( "spectacles," events" and/or "extravaganzas" ) is a welcome diversion for this mundane age.

Heads up: Obviously, Chicagoans feel the same way as I do and Redmoon has extended the run of The Devil's Cabaret into the month of May. If bare-chested, fire-breathing hunks and vixens are not your thing and you prefer straight-up queer-flavored rock, you can find it at The Empty Bottle as Mutts ( which out rocker Mike Maimone fronts ) opens for Archie Powell for a free show on April 27. And if that is not enough, there is still Maimone's solo residency at The High Hat Club on May 7.

This article shared 4445 times since Tue Apr 21, 2015
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