This MS MR article was written by Nairomi Alice Eriksson, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse
So most people have done it; maybe you’ve got the house to yourself and the music on too loud and somehow you’re suddenly transformed into a rolling, gliding, grinding, chest-popping, slutdropping queen of fucking everything. Yeah? Yeah. Now imagine it’s a Tuesday night and you’re doing all that in front of hundreds of artsy young people at Electric Brixton – now you’ve got Lizzy Plapinger.
As the intro to ‘Reckless’ rings out Max Hershenow and London-born Lizzy Plapinger: the duo that makes up NY-based MS MR, waste no time on letting the audience get warmed up. A frantically dancing Plapinger hits you with energy that makes you wonder what she’s had and where you can get some. You kind of want to think “what the hell is happening?” but at the same time you kind of forget what thinking is, she is a forceful mistress and she won’t let you focus on anything but the performance.
If the audience hadn’t caught on already, Plapinger states that in London you can always be “the freakiest version of yourself” before fittingly diving into ‘No Guilt In Pleasure’. The set list is a mixture of songs from debut-album ‘Secondhand Rapture’ and recently released ‘How Does It Feel’ and while it’s fun to hear the new stuff, most of the audience seem to come alive to the tracks that put MS MR on the alt-pop map. They don’t even have to ask to get the crowd to clap along to the catchy breaks in ‘Salty Sweet’.
Nevertheless all the jumping, arm-waving and dancing around the stage seem to get the better of Paplinger’s voice. It doesn’t help that the instruments aren’t balanced together at all and at times her vocals drowns completely in a sea of synth, loud drums and pre-recorded bits. Most of the night you can barely hear Hershenow’s vocals and when you do the contrast of their voices does not harmonise well, perhaps it was a bad decision to invite London-based ROMANS to open for them because his hauntingly beautiful singing has made MS MR fade in comparison.
‘Leave Me Alone’ is one of few songs where we hear Hershenow backing up Plapinger in a way that works, his voice reminds you of a dark church choir and for four minutes it feels like the Electric Brixton is about to take part in a gothic ritual. Apart from that, if you came for the music you’re out of luck, but fortunately you’ll probably want to stay for the performance.
The chemistry between the two are like no other, ‘MS’ and ‘MR’ are constantly bouncing off each other and now and again they fall into short choreographed dance routines that would get a 10/10 from the audience if you’d go by the delighted cheers. They’re messing around, but all for the sake of the show, Plapinger is pouring water on herself and her band members, even spitting it out over the audience at one point; a risky move that no one seems to mind. Hershenow is slightly stood in Plapinger’s shadow but it comes naturally; she’s a performer, he’s a producer.
Regardless, he has still got more energy than half the artists on the scene today and you can’t help but get a little spellbound by his charm. Together the duo sparkle – quite literally actually, Plapinger’s black glitter sequin playsuit and Hershenow’s metallic jacket (combined with glitter trousers and a glitter t-shirt) would make any glam rock icon jealous.
Lastly, the encore comprises of two ‘Secondhand Rapture’- tracks: ‘Bones’ and (finally, after sporadic outcries from the audience during the entire night) their very first debut single ‘Hurricane’. It is a satisfying ending for their followers who might not even care that technically speaking, the gig is a bit all over the place.
So no, it didn’t sound as good as the record, not even close, but MS MR are fun, loveable and combined with a loyal audience; it’s a pretty good night anyway. Max Hershenow is brilliantly sweet, and Lizzy Plapinger? Let’s just say she’s as fiery as her bright red hair.