All My Little Words

The Pipettes – Brighton Corn Exchange 22/9/2006

Posted in Music by nickchristian on June 24, 2013

Catching a band that have “made it” on a return trip to their hometown is always going to be a little bit different to seeing them anywhere else. Okay, so The Pipettes aren’t quite the Beatles and The Corn Exchange is hardly the Cavern Club but this is still the nexus of the girls’ support; this is where they came from and they haven’t forgotten that.

I first encountered them almost three years ago – minus Gwenno – when they were bottom of the bill at a crummy seafront bar, opening for a godawful Massive Attack tribute act and a Jamiroquai wannabe twat-in-a-hat. The venue was splitting at the seams when they started and emptied almost immediately afterwards. They were special then, they’re special now: they deserve this stage.

The 800 capacity space is, however, far from full and I can’t help but feel just a little bit personally offended. Has Elvis returned for a one-off gig next door in the Concert Hall? Where the hell is everybody?

But it doesn’t matter. The 500 or so devoted attendees –from seven-year old girls in pink tutus to slightly more than middle-aged men – get the show they deserve. It may not yet be the Wembley Stadium that the lasses long for and pyrotechnics may not be permitted but for the polka-dot princesses, this is a big gig.

The songs – 17 of them in all – take an odd running order. Beginning with sha-sha-shuffle number ‘Why Did you Stay?’, The Pipettes seem to deliberately hold back on their bigger tunes until later in the set. With not a single song stretching beyond the three-minute mark they rattle through their riotously retro repertoire in fairly short order.

Charmingly egalitarian, none of the girls dominates the vocals and rotate around so no-one is centre-stage for too long. Everyone has their favourite Pipette (mine being Rose because she reminds me of one of my favourite books as a child – The Tough Princess – about a girl who met her prince and ‘biffed him right back’. Don’t ask.) just as everyone had their favourite Spice Girl but Rose, Gwenno and Becki seem that little bit more real. Girls next door? If only.

Live, the songs are much less orchestral than on the album: Backing band The Cassettes are barely noticeable but provide strong support. A couple of new songs are given a run-out including one that doesn’t yet have a name but is ‘about falling in love for the first time’. I think most of the guys in attendance, gazing at this entrancing trio, know exactly what that’s like this evening. Another newbie is called ‘The Gasman Ran Off With The Milkman’ and is, as ever, synched up with cheeky smirks and sweetly wholesome dance moves. In another life maybe these girls would be performing in a diner somewhere in backwoods America but we’re lucky to have them performing for us.

The set ends in big way with crowd fave ‘Judy’ – before which Rose calls for glow sticks and demands dancing. No one’s gonna say no tonight are they? – ‘Dirty Mind’, ‘Pull Shapes’ and ‘We Are The Pipettes’, just in case anyone needs reminding.

Encoring with ‘ABC’ and ‘School Uniform’ it all ends a little too soon. Fifty-five minutes is just not long enough with The Pipettes, but 555 minutes would probably not satisfy most of the crowd. Wembley anyone?

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