Have The Big Moon set themselves up for a fall? No way. They keep on getting bigger. Everything they do comes off. Selling out the Scala? Check. Coming on stage to a taped classic? Check — this time it’s Marvin Gaye’s ‘Sexual Healing’. Adding new songs to their setlist? Check — ‘The End’ and ‘Love In The 4th’ join ‘Happy New Year’ as fresh material. Starting and ending the set exactly the same way every gig? Check — as always it’s ‘Silent Movie Susie’ to open and ‘Sucker’ to close. Refusing to do encores? Check.
They are tight as a drum from kick-off, and the young crowd responds with arms in the air and a pogo as the 60s-style harmonies blend with post-punk guitar chords. The rolling stop-start racket of ‘Nothing Without You’ gets a rapturous response. Charismatic front woman Juliette Jackson is in a party mood: “This is like Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone!”
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The thumping refrain of ‘Pull The Other One’, a delightfully skewed chunk of bubblegum pop, heads into a guitar duel between Jackson and Soph Nathan. Feedbackscreeches as Clash-like drum rolls from Fern Ford on ‘Eureka Moment’ trigger a mosh pit circle to open and close in a smash of exhilaration. Mesmerising bassist Celia Archer introduces the band’s triumphant version of ‘Beautiful Stranger’ by Madonna — and her silky, seductive, sultry bass lines set up a Ramones-like chant of 1-2-3-4 and a frenzied mash up of interplaying punk guitars and a fairground waltz sound.
A drop in pace for the anthemic ‘Formidable’ highlights drummer Ford’s clever keyboard playing, while the Scala’s relatively big stage allows a relaxed and smiling Nathan to move centre stage, in front of the drum kit, to showcase her vibrant guitar hooks in the song’s incendiary second phase. This summer’s single, ‘Cupid’, sparks singalong delight in the crowd, who bellow along to the seminal lyrics, “Pineapple juice, tropical rubicon courage” and “Sorry I’m not your guy… I’ve been waiting for a girl like you.”
After the American New Wave of ‘Happy New Year’, Archer coos, “Hope you like it” and the bouncy ‘Love In The 4th’ builds, dies and builds again. These newer songs feature the group’s hallmark harmonies, as Nathan and Archer beautifully complement Jackson’s lead vocals. She starts ‘The End’ solo, before the tune escalates, unfolding like shrapnel. Sandwiched between these fresh tracks, fan favourite ‘The Road’ sparks a singalong of “People can change…. I’m not the same” and the reggae-tinged tune again shows off Ford’s natty ability to play keyboards from behind her drums.
“Guys, there’s a man down there who has a Big Moon tattoo. We appreciate it,” Jackson beams. “That’s commitment,” Archer adds. They seem genuinely touched by this act of devotion, and the comments underline the close bond between band and crowd. The set climaxes with the hard-edged polka of ‘Bonfire’ and the snappy first single ‘Sucker’. Jackson throws herself into the mosh pit for a brief bit of crowd surfing. Archer’s bass is sensuous and compelling, Nathan’s guitar work sparkles, chimes and drives, while Ford’s percussion and keys are always a thing of joy. Over a thousand people are packed into Scala, singing along with the heart-warming, lilting song: “I never thought that you would be-come my greatest friend.” Jackson ends, ‘I’m a sucker for you”, but tonight it’s the Scala that’s a sucker for The Big Moon.