Porridge Radio pounce on the Empire’s stage to Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song and it’s as if they’ve migrated from their true selves for the initial numbers. Even the jauntiest of their New Wave-esque songs have a darker undertow on 2020’s Mercury nominated Every Bad and May’s ingeniously titled Waterslide, Diving Board and Ladder to The Sky (after the subjects of some of lead singer Dana Margolin’s paintings). Yet, oddly, the gig takes on the flavour of a gaily bopping Sixth Form disco as Give/Take, Circling and Jealousy are surprisingly bland, in spite of the Brighton band’s tireless energy and enthusiasm for live performance, exemplified by Georgie Scott bouncing at the keyboard.
It is not until mid-set that it feels we’re back home. Margolin went on record in the New York Times in the Spring to say she loved to sing her thoughts aloud so as to ‘hear them and understand if she agreed with them’. And to repeat those thoughts over and over. Things really lift off with Birthday Party and its fifteen seven times repeated line ‘I don’t want to be loved’. It’s these existential howls that whip the audience into a maelstrom and drag us much closer to the texture of the studio recordings.
The cropped haired Margolin is adept at elliptical statements such as ‘I don’t want the end and I don’t want the beginning’; on the first of a couple of tracks that resemble Nick Cave gothic stompers, the latter being the final song of the night ‘Sweet’. This features the evening’s support acts, Alaskalaska and Memory of Speke, mobbing the stage and indulging in some comic crowd surfing, dressed in judo suits and lab coats and looking, no doubt intentionally, like extras in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Margolin denies any design to the name Porridge Radio, that it’s a purely random juxtaposition of two unrelated words, albeit both items can be side by side at the breakfast table of course. And Porridge Radio have been accused of being all things to everyone and not settling into a particular genre. This has always seemed unfair as the the group does have a distinctive style and is honed into a recognisably driving groove for the final third.
Even if Margolin does lapse into niceness overkill with the unworkable request of asking those lofty to ensure that someone more vertically challenged behind them can see, the evening ends feeling like good ‘ol rock ‘n’ roll.
Words by Adrian Cross