REFLECTING on why he loves visiting Sydney, Jake Shears said it feels like a heap of different American cities rolled into one: a bit of San Francisco, a bit of Los Angeles, and even some New York.
“Maybe you’ve got the perfect queer city,” he said.
The Scissor Sisters frontman knows sexy.
One of the most prominent gay performers of the past decade, Shears’ provocative, flamboyant style and revealing outfits have attracted comparisons to the gay god of rock himself, Freddie Mercury. After Scissor Sisters rose to fame in 2004 with their debut self-titled album, Shears said his desire to push boundaries on stage became a very conscious one.
“There came a point when, after we started and after we found some success, I kind of felt that the reason we were allowed to be successful is because we felt safe,” he said.
“I felt like we were a very non-threatening entity, and I hit a point where I didn’t feel like I was necessarily being entirely honest and wanted to get a little bit more confrontational and a little more dangerous, and bring the sexuality of it more to the forefront. And I had a lot of fun doing so.”
Between his penchant for appearing on stage in a crotchless one-piece and the blistering polemic that became a staple of Scissor Sisters concerts, Shears doesn’t seem like the kind to play it safe. Asked if much has changed for queer performers in the decade since his breakthrough success, Shears remained sceptical. While gay rights in the US might have progressed by leaps and bounds, he said he was still waiting for a gay pop megastar.
“I’m not talking about gay-friendly pop stars, I’m not talking about like Lady Gaga or whatever, and I’m talking about myself to a degree — I still haven’t seen a queer artist with mainstream success not playing it safe,” he argued.
“You’re still kind of having to neuter yourself, you still can’t really let the sex thing get in the way. I still haven’t seen that drop yet. I think we’ve made leaps and bounds and great strides, but as far as queer musicians themselves, I still feel like we’re in a bit of a petting zoo.”
Shears has been flat out ever since Scissor Sisters went on “indefinite hiatus” in late 2012. Alongside collaborations with the likes of Cher, Queens of the Stone Age and Australia’s own pop princess Kylie Minogue, he’s found time to score a film — I Am Michael, about an LGBT youth counsellor who converts to conservative Christianity — which premiered to acclaim at Sundance in January.
Shears’ appearances at The Beresford Hotel and at the iconic post-Parade party for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras will be his first live performances in two years, and he said he’s doing it for fun.
“This is the first show I’m getting up on stage and doing in a long time, and this is my first time I’ve ever played solo, without the band,” he said of his one-off performance at The Beresford.
“There’s no grand plan behind any of this — I’ve got no plan for any kind of solo record, nothing, I just need to get on stage and perform.”
Jake Shears will perform at The Beresford on March 5 as part of the 2015 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. He will also have a set at The Party on March 7. Details and tickets: mardigras.org.au
**This article was first published in the March edition of the Star Observer, which is available to read in digital flip-book format. To obtain a physical copy, click here to find out where you can grab one in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.