Unbilled Alexander Price was a surprise... and unexpected delight. Looking like the bastard offspring of Holly Johnson and Faderhead (!), he sounded like Georgio Moroder teasing Daft Punk at G-A-Y. Accompanied by two leotard-clad dancers, this was a guily pleasure from the moment he stepped on stage sporting his shades. I was slumped at the back of the venue when Price walked on stage and it took just one song for me to realise that I should be down the front checking this bloke out. I saw he was wearing sunglasses and thought of Nitzer Ebb's Douglas McCarthy's trademark live look, but there was nothing beyond the shades to connect Price with McCarthy's outfit. Eurodisco/pop is more the sound that Price produces.
Having only just released his first single Spend A Little Time (the debut album is due later this year) and played a handful of gigs, Price's enthusiasm for his writing and performance overcame any nerves he may have had. The dance routines of the two girls and Price's faux stud interaction with them was great fun to watch and terrific entertainment. Although clearly working hard, no-one on stage took themselves too seriously, the dancers laughing a lot, and Price valiantly trying to stay in character and not crack up to often.
The bouncing bassline of the addictive Spend A Little Time began and the girls were in full flow, with a terrific dance routine that saw them alternating between sitting on the front of the stage and fawning over Price - their synchronised clapping an unforgettable highlight of the set. The striptease down to bare chest that saw Price end up writhing on the floor with his microphone stand may have been a bit in your face for some, but most everyone in the Purple Turtle wound up being a fan even if, like me, they'd never heard of Alexander Price before tonight. Deluxe entertainment.
Part of Alexander Price's sound reminded me of a more camp Silence Is Sexy which is where Noblesse Oblige's Sebastian Lee Philipp first caught my attention, so making Price the support to Philipp's band was an inspired decison by promoters Flag. This was my second NO gig (the first was only earlier this year as support to IAMX). Then I was slightly underwhelmed, my judgement obviously impaired by my very fond memories of Silence Is Sexy's live and recorded sound. This time around though I knew what to expect and with no misguided pre-conceptions I was able to enjoy this for all it was. For my money, Noblesse Oblige deliver the coolest underground live performance around at the moment. Steeped in the heady, irrepressibly creative German nightclub counterculture - from the days of Marlene Dietrich strutting her stuff in the 1920s, to Bowie recording at Hansa in Berlin in the 1970s - NO are a total thrill to behold.
Polymorph Valerie Renay (she also acts in films, directs in the theatre, and appears on the performance art circuit as Femme Façade) has a startling grandiose appearance that once seen is never forgotten (useful with so much competition for one's eyes and ears around!). Striding onto the stage with her improbable legs, her vast hairstyle and athletic, lean body, sporting make-up that has her resembling more the sonambulist from Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr Caligari than any traditional record label's idea of a female leading lady, Renay is simultaneously scary and captivating in equal measure.
I don't evny the man trying to go up against that combination on stage each night and make his own impression, but Lee Philipp does it easily. He is the coolest front man going. Look at that quiff! Look at those drainpipe legs and winkle-picker boots! And look at those stances! The guy's a genius before he's even done anything! He's like a slightly deranged Weimer rockabilly.
Just as well then that Noblesse Oblige's sound lives up to all the other dimensions of the act. Ranging from the unnerving plinky, plonkiness of Daddy (Don't Touch Me There) with lyrics that make you feel funny in your tummy, through the mesmerizing ballad-like 4 AM and Jalouse (that makes me think of a alternate universe version of The Persuaders era John Barry), onto the stomping beats and choruses of of Tanz Mephisto and Bitch. What's so impressive is that they can do it all and pull of each style variation with energy, integrity and sincerity. I'm beginning to feel a bit of an obsession with Noblesse Oblige coming on and, like IAMX before them, I can already see me becoming a standard bearer for all they do. Getting closer to essential with every passing contact. 8/10