The Veronicas - Manchester Academy 2
My good man Matt James offers up wry pre-gig warning: "And remember - Jesus is watching you!" Quite. The Origliasso twins, Jess and Lisa, deliver as much onstage fun and frolics as I've seen in an age. Jess, recently blonde, infamously gay, looks like she'd get you into a hell of a lot of trouble. Lisa, still modelling the Wednesday Adams look, well, she commands the live affair to some degree and does the slighly-more-sensible sister act but, to be fair, she looks like trouble too. Mmm. Hey! What's not to like?
I take the 12 year old. Well, she takes me. The demographics of the crowd, though, make it immediately apparent that for once there's no need to deploy your offspring as justification. The place, sold out for weeks, is pretty much your typical indie gig crowd - student types, couples in their twenties and thirties and a predictable sprinkling of little Hayley Williams clones. Screams on the sisters' arrival and a sign that reads "Lisa and Jess - turning girls gay since 2005" confirms the oft-quoted pink appeal. Ahem.
All told, these Veronicas fire the place up with a kinetic cocktail of youthful energy, spot-on performance and just enough saucy minxiness to let the odd parent on Gig Accompaniment Duty breathe easy each time the between song banter threatens to enter the red. Actually, scrub that. Prior to the magnificently titled 'Revenge is Sweeter (Than You Ever Were)', Lisa dedicates it to her ex-boyfriend. He was at the previous night's London gig and she held back, but tonight she wants us all to know what a "wanker" he was. "Is that okay? Can I say 'wanker'?" Apparently not! The shocked, but amused, response from the front has her looking for alternatives. "How about 'twat'?" The GAD group spill their halves of lager. I share a look with the 12 year old - my eyebrows communicate something about it being funny, yes, but wrong. (Think she gets it ...) Once it's clear that "twat" has only made things worse, we head off with audience help past "tosser" ("That's a great word, Manchester!") and settle finally on safe ground with "dickhead." Phew. Mop that brow. You can't take kids anywhere these days.
Those of us over the age of 16 find ourselves sagely nodding away and hiding our (genuine) surprise. The Veronicas' blend of MOR pop-rock, coupled to a genuinely muscular live approach, is undeniably more-ish. Opening with one of 2009's very best singles ('Untouched') is either brave or just daft but that opening five note stab of sampled strings sends the Academy into hyperdrive. It's testament to the girls' repetoire that trawling their two albums to date means we couldn't care less that the big ones's gone. 'When it All Falls Apart', from debut 'The Secret Life of ...', is a high spot. A three song acoustic spot, mid-set, hits the mark despite them choosing badly when they get a fan up on stage to join them for 'Speechless'. ("He was awful - chatting me up all through the song!" protests Lisa. Yeah, well, that and pawing over you like letch of the century. Tip - next time don't pick a 30 year old stoner in a suit, wearing a t-shirt that says 'EAT YOUR BRAIN'.) Current album 'Hook me Up' sees its title track smashed out of the park and 'This is How it Feels' and '4Ever' make for a rampant run in.
So, yeah, The Veronicas - ace live. No doubt. A backing band with real clout, some genuinely smart stage craft, vocals that rarely miss the mark and, for once, 75 minutes fly by without so much as a hint of drag. Converted? I'd say. The 12 year old pronounces it "Well good", but that's the comprehensive system for you. Seeking just a bit more critical insight, she offers up: "Better than Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson but not as good as Paramore." For those of you who like a bit of quantification with your subjective, you can't say fairer than that.