The Donnas

The Donnas and Do Me Bad Things @ Electric Ballroom 6/10/04 - Live Review

Review of The Donnas and Do Me Bad Things @ Electric Ballroom 6/10/04

There’s been quite a lot of hype surrounding this gig with reputations following both bands around like shadows. But never mind the media, the crowd expects and is more than happy to wait; and so we wait for Do Me Bad Things to triumph or fall flat on their arse. Given I’ve been told that they’re a mix of rock and R&B I’m more than a little apprehensive about what they’re going to sound like. The lights dim and some of the band (drummer, bassist and guitarist) appear looking normal (as normal as metallers get that is) – so far, so good.

And then, the rest of the band come – or at least what seems to be the rest of the band, and my good God! They seem to be about two things: shock and bewilderment. The first singer, Nicolai Prowse, looks like a 50s gay porn movie star and the singers aren’t far behind in tiny baby doll dresses. It is catchy though, that much is undeniable as Prowse and female counterpart Chantal Dellusional go about proving that Def Leppard can mix it with the Scissor Sisters.

The Donnas and Do Me Bad Things @ Electric Ballroom 6/10/04 - Live Review
The Donnas and Do Me Bad Things @ Electric Ballroom 6/10/04 - Live Review

However, surprises don’t stop coming as Prowse leaves the stage to be replaced by second singer, The Woods, who never fails to reminds me of a werewolf (not helped by the fact that he sounds like one). One about turn later, we get something approaching glam rock complete with vocoders and it all gets a bit odd, not least when Dellusional adds her impressive diva-like vocals. Bizarre, but not as bizarre as when Prowse comes back on stage having changed (he changes every time he goes off) and he and Dellusional set the stage on fire with sexual tension and fiery soul. Both of them have one hell of a range, and Prowse moves and sounds like a man betrayed.

By the fourth tune, everything descends into some sort of jazz-funk and I’m left feeling rather confused. Just when I though I’d got the measure of them, DMBT provide us with a tune Electric 6 would be proud of with Dellusional on vocals instead of Dick Valentine. The final song is as good a closer as you’ll ever get and crowd and band go mental together. Rock meets R&B indeed but, be warned, DMBT are not for the faint hearted or musically unadventurous.

It’s hard to know which band garnered more attention, as crowd reactions stand on a similar level. However, it’s easy to see that the Donnas (or at least singer Donna A, AKA Bret Anderson, is) are delighted to be back in the UK and playing in front of a British crowd; it’s also clear that they’re here to promote a new album (Gold Medal) playing mostly new songs. OK, they’re not the most original female fronted band around (Yeah Yeah Yeahs mean anything to you?) but they make up for it with plenty of energy.

Then again, perhaps I’m being overly judgemental and they’re actually more modern and original then I’m giving them credit for. So they throw Britrock and a bit of punk into the blender and the combination goes down well – ‘you wanna hear an old one?’, we thought you’d never ask, Donna A, and the crowd reacts appropriately. By now we know one thing’s beyond any doubt: she’s glad to be back and boy does she let us know by telling us every couple of songs. I guess it’s nice to see some enthusiasm though, even it doesn’t seem entirely genuine.

That feeling isn’t helped by the fact that, again, it really it all too clear that they’re promoting ‘Gold Medal’ (by the 5 th song they’d played one oldie). You can see them trying so hard to put some grit and a bit of sexual tension in the songs; instead there’s just a youthful buzz of joy running through them all no matter how much they try not to be. There’s something reminiscent of getting pissed with your mates and then skipping down the street at three in the morning in it all. Whilst all this is going on, something odd happens – Donna A compliments security as somebody throws another glass at the stage.

Near the end, the crowd don’t really seem to be getting into it until ‘Who Invited You?’ and then the place goes mad, and we don’t need an excuse to dance like crazy. They follow this up with ‘Five in the Morning, which goes down well enough but seems lacking for some reason. Part of the problem is Anderson is a bit of a rock front woman clich with her moves (I keep getting reminded of some shampoo ad as she’s constantly flicking her hair) whilst it seems she’s trying to look seductive (God knows why). On top of it, it feels like the all girl band thing is a gimmick and, if they weren’t, they would be this hyped, or popular.

Just before the end of the set, we actually get a smile from the guitarist and bassist who ‘til then had looked like they’re rather be anywhere else. The Donnas come back for the obligatory encore, and we start thinking that they’re going to do quite a few more songs. We’re wrong, very wrong – they play two songs including the new single, which admittedly is good, but the length of the set is clearly a disappointment and some people’s expectations are left to drown it’s sorrows.

As far as gigs go, I’ll remember Do Me Bad Things far more for their charismatic and totally enjoyable set even if your brain is telling you, you should hate it. As for the Donnas, jury’s still out on that one.

Natasha Perry