The last time the Scissor Sisters toured Australia, in early 2007, this reviewer saw them at the vast, hollow expanse of Melbourne’s (then) Vodafone Arena. Pressed cheek by jowl with those around me, I got a tap on my shoulder mid-song and turned to see a pissed-up suburban housewife peering at me.

Excuse me…are you gay?”

Erm, yes I am. Why?”

Oh don’t worry, it’s OK with me if you are. I’m completely OK with it. Honestly.”

Then, turning to her friend with the sort of wide-eyed wonder that only comes when you’ve met your Very First Fag: “Sharon! You were right – he IS gay!” The two spent the rest of the concert staring at the poof next to the them in amazement, instead of at the poofs on stage.

Sure, not the sort of incident that rates highly on the homophobic hate crime scale (truth be told, it was a slight ego boost), but it was still a worrying indication of the dramatic shift in fanbase for a band who got their start a few years earlier playing the unshockable tranny bars of NYC.

The sort of stratospheric success experienced back in ’07 was never going to be sustainable for a niche band like the Scissor Sisters. So how did they get back on solid ground?

They took three years off. Frontman Jake Shears absconded from domestic life with his long-term partner and indulged in the hedonistic nightlife of Berlin. They quietly parted ways with their token straight guy, drummer Paddy Boom. And they stuck an image of a taut male arse on the cover of their new album, Night Work, just in case anyone was in any doubt that contained within are songs about drugs, cocks and – let’s be honest here – particularly exuberant bumming.

Playing to a more manageable crowd of Queers and Those Who Love Them at last night’s Luna Park show, the band wisely jettisoned most of the material from Ta-Dah, the sophomore album that helped them sell out arenas worldwide but whose jazz-hands, honky tonk sound got old very quickly. Even their biggest hit thus far, the inescapable I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’, was played almost begrudgingly mid-set.

Quite rightly, the focus was on Night Work, arguably their best album yet. The widescreen Skin Tight, the saucy Whole New Way – even lacklustre single Fire With Fire sounded positively anthemic in a live context.

Both the band’s charismatic lynchpins are looking incredible: gone are Ana Matronic’s ample curves, replaced by a model’s figure and cut-glass cheekbones. Jake, once the wiry frontman, has beefed up – and clearly knows it, as he most of the night flexing and pouting like his life depended on it. Both were keen to show off their new figures, even breaking into a choreographed aerobics routine during new-wave highlight Running Out.

Always the between-song ringmaster, this time around, Ana even got a few tracks all to herself. Joined at the front of the stage by two lookalike back-up singers for the robo-funk of Skin This Cat, the trio shimmied and strutted around like some glorious, all-ranga version of the Sugababes, before Jake reappeared for the first-album favourite, PFLAG anthem Take Your Mama, which earned perhaps the night’s best reception.

Sure, it was hard not to feel a twinge of jealousy that the previous night’s Melbourne crowd got added Kylie bang-for-their-buck – but Jake went some way to giving us our Aussie poppette fix, emerging for the encore in a bike shorts and bomber jacket ensemble that seemed to have been directly influenced by ‘80s fashion-forward popstar Colette, of Ring My Bell ‘fame’.

info: Scissor Sisters play Splendour in the Grass on July 30.

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