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Culture Reviews
By Alex Meredith
Muscovites love the circus. The 2 permanent performances at Universitet and Tsvetnoy Boulevard perform nightly to a full house as locals and tourists get their fix in the capitol. Meanwhile the touring Moscow State Circus exports this brand of performance art around the globe to rapturous applause wherever they lay out their tent. This weekend, for one night only, Moscow’s clubbers were invited to another take on the ancient travelling spectacular -“Cirque”- Gaudi Arena’s late-summer house-music extravaganza. Backed up by a line up of DJs as crowd-pleasing and familiar as the cycling tiger or the highwire acrobats, the headliners of this big top were FischerSpooner, New York’s acclaimed alternative art-pop duo. The aura that surrounds this act had led the crowd to believe that they were about to be introduced to the Ringmaster. Sadly for the hopeful onlookers, they turned out to be no more than clowns.

By making songs available for free through their website, FischerSpooner have laid a deliberate emphasis on their live performances. It is on stage that we are supposed to judge this electroclash duo and in the proud, honest tradition of the big top they must gauge their success by the cheers or jeers of the sovereign public. If this is truly the case, then we are unlikely to see these over-hyped showmen back in the Russian capital anytime soon.

Appearing on stage with a troupe of costumed dancers in a flurry of feathers, face-paint and fancy footwork, the initial impact was enough to get a restless crowd into an excited whirl of anticipation. However no amount of gloss would be enough to hide the weakness of their untuneful, poorly-finished sound and as they rattled through the monotonous tracks the sense of frustration grew. Most of these barely musical numbers, such as “Emerge” and “The 15th”, came from the duos latest offering “Odessey”, on which they inexplicably turned their back on the watchful methodology that saw them to a degree of success with their first effort “#1”. Perhaps sensing that this effort will not match the acclaim of that album, and seeking to compensate, it appears as if the group have naively opted for an even more eccentric stage show. It doesn’t work.

Despite being accompanied on stage variously by spacemen, camels and a milky way of glitter, they failed to impress a crowd that soon began yearning, burning and finally turning to something more melodic from the DJs who were hastily brought forward to calm the unrest. Not being able to win over a gathering of hardened house music traditionalists might be seen as a compliment for these self-proclaimed innovators. However with this forum packed with the noticeably young and impressionable, they cannot simply blame the discontent on a tough-crowd. Instead the apprentice fashionistas who had turned out in large numbers (apparently engaged in a fierce competition with each other to look the most ridiculous) were wishing they had left the standard issue sunglasses at home and instead opted for an industrial set of ear muffs.

And there is no doubt that the impressive sound system at Gaudi Arena would have done such protection justice. The positioning of speakers around as well as above the dance floor ensures that there is no escape from the thundering bass and live drums that the band relies heavily upon. In addition, Gaudi allows FischerSpooner ample space to strut and strip their way around their own stage leaving the decks clear on their central podium for Tommie Sunshine, DJ Griff and Ivan Rydyk to reignite the evening once the pretentious oddity had fallen from their trapeze.

Like any performance artists FischerSpooner are challenging and, to some, will always be inaccessible. Bursting with colour and engaging the crowd with a commanding, energetic stage presence, their curious brand of camp exuberance will easily succeed in grasping a spectator’s attention. However no amount of posturing will hide the fact that their songs are flat, dull and frankly boring. This expensive show is a facade of pink smoke and feathered mirrors. Unless the music improves, filling the gaping hole in their act, these musical jesters will continue to be hit with a deserved custard pie.

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