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The Return of a Joyful Noise: Gossip Are Back

Monday, 25 March 2024 Written by Matt Mills

Photo: Cody Critcheloe

If you had a baby on the day that Gossip put out their last album, that child would now be in secondary school. That’s how long it’s been.

Since the release of ‘A Joyful Noise’ in 2012, Gossip have been on and off like a light switch. They first split to let figurehead Beth Ditto focus on her own projects in 2016, then slipped into inactivity yet again (albeit more unofficially) after a brief 2019 reunion. Needless to say, it’s been a rough decade for fans of the Arkansas indie trio, whose flavours of punk, R&B and soulful, powerful vocals made them one of a kind and, during their time off, truly irreplaceable.

As a result, March 22, 2024, was already a significant enough day as it was: back in November, Gossip announced that this would be the date they finally made their full-length comeback, ending a 12-year dry spell with record six, ‘Real Power’. However – for those of us crammed into the intimate environs of the Pryzm nightclub in Kingston-Upon-Thames, Surrey – the occasion’s even more special.

Ditto, multi-instrumentalist Nathan Howdeshell and drummer Hannah Blilie are playing a sweat-drenched spectacle to just 2,000 of their most rapt followers: a pretty dinky number, given this is the band who penetrated UK pop culture with debut single Standing in the Way of Control, then cracked charts worldwide with 2009’s Heavy Cross.

Yet, if Ditto was meant to act like some kind of untouchable superstar off the back of such success, she clearly didn’t get the memo. The singer unquestionably looks the part, her slicked-back hair bright red, practically shimmering when cast against her thick black eyeliner and monochrome dress. Her personality couldn’t be more down-to-earth, though, each song of the night being separated by bubbly banter and in-jokes with particular members of the audience.

The (ahem) gossip, which tackles everything from DC punk bands like Fugazi to how much Ditto loves a bandana that was tossed to her mid-concert, threads the evening together seamlessly, every second not filled with music still wildly entertaining. Although this band’s core lineup has been the same for 20 years now, this quickly and plainly becomes the Beth Ditto hour off the back of her undeniable charisma.

If her attire and motormouth repartee don’t confirm her as the star of this show, then her vocal prowess most definitely does — she is as clear and majestic as any great soul singer you could name. There’s also an underrated diversity to her delivery. Where Standing…, as well as new songs Real Power and Give It Up for Love, show Ditto blaring at full pelt without as much as a wobble, Dimestore Diamond and Turn the Card Slowly flaunt a more relaxed country rock drawl.

That isn’t to undersell the contributions of the rest of the band, of course. Howdeshell and Blilie demonstrate the perks of two decades of graft and chemistry, instrumentally keeping up with Ditto as she sometimes pursues impromptu musical avenues. When Your Mangled Heart commences tonight’s encore, there’s an out-of-nowhere jam of Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 shortly after the outset, because why not? Similarly, not long after the musicians burst into Standing…, they stop to let Ditto give an impassioned speech about the song’s connection to LGBTQ+ issues, then without a word pick up precisely where they were supposed to.

The lineup also cheekily inserts a verse of the Nirvana megahit Smells Like Teen Spirit into the finale: a closing reminder of the anarchy and playfulness that have always defined Gossip beneath the surface. It’s a perfect closing jolt of fun to a set that, for 80 minutes, has kept Pryzm smiling like the corners of our mouths are wired to the ceiling.

After 12 years of instability and start-stop comebacks, we can only hope that this marks the moment indie’s convention-smashers return for good. We refuse to wait another decade to feel this good again.

Gossip Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue August 27 2024 - DUBLIN Collins Barracks
Sun September 01 2024 - LIVERPOOL Olympia
Tue September 03 2024 - GLASGOW SWG3
Wed September 04 2024 - LEEDS Wardrobe

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