By Daniel Westover
When you think of the Detroit sound, it’s natural to think of Motown first. But, they have another whole genre: a solid garage/punk sound championed by MC 5 and Iggy Pop, featuring loud, angry songs with melodic hooks and intertwining guitar leads. Electric Six is a loyal bearer of that sound, but with a bit more diversity, and a substitution of whimsy for anger.
A true six piece band, Electric Six features a smug, ironic Dick Valentine on vocals; the twin lead guitar threat of Johnny NaShinal and Da Ve; Tait Nucleus? on keys; Smorgasbord on bass, and Percussion World as the drummer. As a band, they are incredibly tight; neither guitarist is a technical virtuoso, but splitting leads and playing off one another, they are a sum greater than the parts. Valentine’s vocals are assertive, and he can sing ridiculous lyrics without breaking character, going from an R&B near falsetto to a healthy roar.
The band took the stage with what could best be described as a heavy metal anthem, “Karate Lips.” I was stunned by how much the near capacity crowd took to it; these people obviously knew the songs better than me, and I was left wondering how I missed out for so many years. “Down at McDonnelzzz,” a few songs later, prompted the first enthusiastic crowd vocals, and neatly meshed a brilliant falsetto with a highly credible rap. “Future in Future" showed the band’s versatility, a meandering funk tune worthy of Prince, with an amazingly catch bass line.
It takes an incredibly confident band to play their two biggest hits within the body of the set, but that’s exactly what happened: the surf-based “Gay Bar” prompted maybe the best response of the night; and my favorite, “Danger! High Voltage!”, followed a few songs later and was introduced as, “This is another song.” Probably the best guitar piece of the night and gloriously extended from the studio version.
The closer, “I Buy the Drugs,” was fantastic, another extension of the guitar work, and a true test of Valentine’s vocals. Finally, the encore of “Dance Epidemic” provided a glimpse at the band’s versatility, being basically a pop dance song that triggered a wave of pogo-ing in the crowd.
All in all, this was a really good performance. and one which prompted me to buy all eleven of their CDs. Highly recommended, should they come near you.