Image Credit: Fiona Lin. Description: Superorganism live in performance.
Why is Oxford always the end of the road? The Magic Gang finished their tour here earlier this month. IDLES played their last UK date here last night before Superorganism concluded their own touring stint at this wondrous city of the dry-heaving spires. The boring answer is that that this is just coincidence. The legendary answer is that Oxford is the final showdown, the ultimate acid test for frazzled and travelled bodies and brains. The place is so terrifying that it must be avoided until the last moment, but the joy of conquering it so mighty that all musicians must test their mettle here because only this city can offer such glorious highs, as well as the more catastrophic lows. It’s the same for students, I guess.
And that was the problem with Superorganism’s show. Their relationship with the audience was not quite set.
And Superorganism singer Orono was at a low. She started breaking down during a scheduled mid-set audience chat and never recovered. Seeing her crying, hearing about her tough month, how she’s been feeling so sad and wants her band mates to come back was quite discomfiting, not in the least because we don’t expect to see these things on stage, but also because she was earlier goading the audience to yell and give her their derisory middle fingers. Surly pop-singer, drinking from a mug and wearing a hood? Or vulnerable, soul-bearing chanteuse? I couldn’t be sure. And that was the problem with Superorganism’s show. Their relationship with the audience was not quite set. The formality of their stage presence, with its sequenced song-interludes of space travel and video games, elusive costume changes, and brief set which kind of stuttered by all meant that I felt too aloof a distance from their vibes and visions.
It sounds like I had no fun at all, but it was actually pretty fun. I’d had a few beers. The band solemnly paced on in glittery druidic attire clutching phosphorescent crystal balls before launching into manifesto track ‘SPRORGNSM’. When the lights were flashing and the songs were peaking, it was pretty poppin’ in there. ‘The Prawn Song’ might have been the best number of the lot; receiving the lyrics through the cold nakedness of the stage showed them up for all their joyful ridiculousness: Have YOU ever kissed a prawn and started a World War? Have YOU ever kissed a prawn and caught a cold sore? Hell, the true groovers in the audience had purchased Superorganism-branded prawn-patterned bucket hats. At least a few more I bet were wearing Superorganism-branded white socks, though I never went on all fours and pulled up people’s trousers to check.
It sounds like I had no fun at all, but it was actually pretty fun.
Orono’s teary voice elects some fans to come on stage with the group during ‘Everybody wants to be famous’. Then they finish with encore ‘Something for your M.I.N.D’ and invite support band Chai to dance with them. Orono is receiving comforting hugs and assurances from the touring cohort. The song is good, obviously, and the spectacle is cool enough, but I’m just too weirded out to truly lose myself in these techni-colour pop fantasies.