Adam Green is a colourful madman. The back of The Duchess is lit up by a snapshot of the cartoonish set of Aladdin, his recent feature film release (featuring a star-studded cast of Macaulay Culkin, Natasha Lyonne and Alia Shawkat, to name just a few), and the anti-folk giant is dressed to match. Green bounds onto the stage in a homemade Aladdin costume, complete with scarlet fez and a cast on his broken hand. He’s lanky and offbeat, with loud, protracted movements, but exudes a palpable charisma. Instantly charming, his wild eyes immediately find faces to smile upon as if judging the crowd’s energy – or our potential. His bright smile is infectious as his lengthy arms stretch out to reach the open hands that request high-fives throughout the set.
In an unusual move (economical or artistic, I’m still unsure which) Coming Soon, Green’s support act, double-up as his backing band. “You’d better like us, we’re on for two more hours” they threaten, but they needn’t worry: they’re worth the wait. Dream-pop keys and Beach House-esque vocals cool the stuffy, summer air of the basement. Moving between ethereal psychedelia and synthpop, the sunsoaked melodies of their latest EP give way to the heavier riffs of earlier songs, until suddenly the effective guitar and drums surrender as their lead vocalist enters the crowd to croon a capella. Later, the French quintet don ruffled shirts and boater hats before taking to the stage once more. Like us, Adam Green is fast becoming a fan of theirs – in the middle of his set he steps back to allow the band another go.
This sense of spontaneity permeates the entire evening. Audience interaction already impressively unimpeded following an early stage invasion courtesy of a stumbling drunk girl, Green directly converses with his front row fans and invites more hollered suggestions of songs. What results is an eclectic showcase of his discography; from Moldy Peaches throwback ‘Who’s Got The Crack’, to tongue-in-cheek hits like ‘Drugs’, one fixed element in Green’s work (aside the obvious) is his humour – simultaneously childish and darkly warped. His unconventional style appears again in the soundtrack of his magnum opus with the same transparency, masquerading as naivety but with an acute awareness of his lumbering melodies and clumsily chanting choruses. The ironic whimsy that fills his songs also leaks out into his live musings. An initially cynical impression of York that “everyone looks like either a depraved drug addict or a tourist” is cured by his trip to the minster where, a self-proclaimed fan of stained glass, he praises the artistry of its windows.
It’s impossible not to be enamoured by Green. At once both brazen and sentimental, his endearing presence fills the room and picks up every person along the way. There’s an honest joy in his offer to “sign more dicks”, braving further risk to his already-injured hand, which is gladly accepted via post-show hugs and abstract jokes. It’s a happy chaos, and a nice note to end on – for Green and The Duchess herself.
Photo by Matt Biddulph, Berlin Festival 2010.By Beth Prior