Long before Lady Gaga pranced around a stage in bloody corsets and coiffed bowtie hair and years before Britney Spears clogged airwaves with electro-driven personals for slaves, there was (and still is) Peaches – a Canadian tour de force whose recent Chicago stop on the I Feel Cream Tour proved that nobody in today’s musical nomenclature sells sex better.
Peaches is nowhere near as sweet as her name implies; with a balls-to-the-wall attitude and presence that takes no prisoners (She frankly doesn’t have the time to be polite in an hour-and-a-half). Every minute of her extended Metro set was a Venus Fly Trap of props, costumes, and plenty of uncensored antics and sexually charged lyrics ensuring the room full of Miami-style hipsters did not wilt from lack of enthusiasm.
The glam rock meets electro pop set began with a trio of diabolical messengers (later uncovered as her German backing band, Sweet Machine) – three blind mice gagged and blindfolded in a Misfits-inspired wardrobe who took center stage in front of a crowded backdrop of instruments to silently announce Peaches’ arrival. Though, had there not been a microphone in one of her gloved hands, you’d never have known who was behind the curtain in a literal house of a costume that was some sort of bat meets camel-hump hybrid.
It soon proved too much clothing for the singer after reaching a boiling point on charged single “Talk to Me” which left the largely “Boystown” crowd fanning themselves, most notably a grown man donning a Gucci purse and DIY t-shirt with a casual request to “Stuff Me Up Peaches”. After dismissing her leather bikini-clad dancers, Peaches de-robed to a pink Michelin Man unitard with those poke-your-eye-out shoulder pads that Rihanna has stock in. Later, more costume changes would include a rainbow sherbet superhero costume that matched her Braveheart war paint and white moto jacket complete with a knock-off of MJ’s sequined glove.
But behind the ‘80s flair is a musician who works to the grindstone creating a show and music that are both truly memorable for fans and newcomers. It took five years for the artist formerly known as Merrill Beth Nisker to create the persona and another five or more to rack up an A-team of guest contributors and collaborators, including Iggy Pop, Joan Jett, Josh Homme, and Beth Ditto among others.
The former elementary school music and drama teacher is adept at balancing her juvenile sense of humor (see “Shake Yer Dix”) with trained experience. Peaches produces, programs, and plays all her own music and sings with gumption: her voice roughhoused where it needed to and belted out at full range when you wanted it to, even when the singer was suspended in mid-air, offering samurai poses for balance.
“We’re going to do something only live shows can do,” she said during the song “Take You On” before floating on the hands of the audience to the sound booth and back. It was moments like these that showed Peaches is a brilliant ring of her circus, commanding every inch of her space and every mind in attendance with her beguiling tricks.
It’s a shame opener Amanda Blank couldn’t find the same strength in her abbreviated set. You really want to like the Philly rapper for being one of the fresh, white girls in a scene dominated by solid talents like M.I.A., Santigold, and Kid Sister. But something gets lost in her loose-lipped translation that makes a mockery of the craft – like when she sings about lipstick and blush in “Make-Up” or talks commonplace about pussy before gyrating at the crowd and spewing about love lost in “DJ”. By the time she declared, “It’s about to get real hip-hop in here, yo,” it just became one of those LMFAO moments.
Dressed in a long, glittery, hooded cape that bore a skintight zebra-print unitard underneath, Blank was a much tamer version of Peaches whose image didn’t match up to the one-off sexually explicit lyrics on her August debut, I Love You. Her Brooklyn fly girl attitude made it feel even more like a cover act or an artist just completely lost in her identity. “I wanna look good for you,” she sang in a forgettable number – but as Peaches proved, that’s just half the battle.