Once every decade there seems to be a window in the music world where queer culture asserts its claim as a vibrant, exciting, cutting-edge force. In the early 70s it was the turn of David Bowie, Lou Reed and the glam rockers that followed in platform heels, spandex and lurid make-up.
The early to mid-80s gave us Soft Cell, Bronski Beat, Culture Club and the new romantics, while in the 90s bands with queer members were at the forefront of grunge and alternative music -“ The Breeders, Hole, Faith No More, REM and Suede, to name just a few.
In 2004 that window was flung wide open again. It was the year in which the most exciting and dynamic debuts by far came from acts with a definite queer sensibility -“ Le Tigre, Dresden Dolls, Franz Ferdinand (witness Michael) and, screaming louder than all of them, Scissor Sisters.
It’s little wonder then that the excitement level at the Metro last Friday was at fever pitch before the band ever hit the stage.
While the last wave of queer music was largely ignored by a mainstream 90s gay culture that was drowning in a sea of rainbow consumables and disco covers, the Metro crowd was a veritable who’s who of Sydney’s most intriguing poofs and dykes.
From my perch on the mezzanine I could spot DJs Sveta, Seymour Butz and Luke Leal, local muso legend Paul Mac and half a dozen gay writers from the more credible gay and mainstream media -“ rubbing shoulders with fey boys in pork pie hats, handsome freaks in school shorts and filthy-gorgeous women with feathers and ruffles.
My favourites were the trio of bears in home-made matching Scissor Sisters T-shirts in the front row, clearly there to pay homage to the most hirsute of the Sisters, Baby-Daddy.
You can tell a lot about a band by the music that precedes them taking to the stage.
A distinctly girlie cheer went up from the expectant crowd when the Sisters’ Kylie collaboration I Believe In You was played, followed by a remix of Duran Duran’s Save A Prayer and then Dolly Parton’s Baby I’m Burning as the lights dimmed and the band took to the stage.
The agenda was clear from the outset -“ this was a night to party.
To say the crowd went wild as singers Jake Shears and Ana Matronic burst on to the stage for an explosive rendition of album opener Laura is an understatement.
The place went completely nuts, with even the top tiers of the Metro jumping and bopping along.
Rock music hasn’t seen a frontman like Jake Shears for far too long.
The snake-hipped, bare-chested singer was a frenzy of energy, his look a combination of a sexy pirate, sexy gypsy and (if it’s possible) sexy morris dancer.
Is this what it would have been like to have seen Bowie in Ziggy drag circa 1972?
While Shears was the whirling dervish throughout, Ana Matronic took on the role of old-time gospel evangelist and philosopher, with hilarious monologues about beauty, glamour and boys in tube-skirts.
Her turn on lead vocals for Tits On The Radio was an early show-stopper, while Shears’s manic falsetto backing showed off just how good his voice really is.
When an act has only one album they’ve got little option but to the play the whole damn thing, which is what they proceeded to do -“ much to the delight of the crowd.
The band was tight throughout, presenting a solid foil to the extravagance of its front-people.
So what if their sound is heavily influenced by Bowie and early Elton? They’re no more guilty of plundering the past than Saints clones The Hives and virtual covers band Jet.
Ironically the Sisters’ most original sound is best demonstrated in a cover version.
Their take on Pink Floyd’s classic Comfortably Numb late in the set was absolutely mesmerising.
While they’re not so much known for their slower songs, the heart-wrenching Mary and the especially poignant Return To Oz (with its line What once was an Emerald City is now a crystal town) came into their own live.
The latter of these closed the set, although there was no doubt an encore would follow -“ we hadn’t heard Take Your Mama yet.
Sure enough Baby-Daddy and Shears were soon back on stage by themselves for It Can’t Come Quickly Enough.
Then, in a nod to the only band to have seriously challenged them as the best new act of recent years, the rest of the Scissors took up their places for a bouncy cabaret version of Franz Ferdinand’s Take Me Out.
Ending as they started, Scissor Sisters carried their feel-good party manifesto to the end with the brilliant Take Your Mama and then closing with Music Is The Victim.
I doubt there was a person in the room, regardless of gender or sexuality, who left the Metro without a smile on their face or a desire to do nasty things to Jake Shears.
Roll on the new queer zeitgeist.
For more info about the Scissor Sisters, visit www.scissorsisters.com