Wednesday, 28th September 2019: another day of exceptionally soul-destroying news about the state that the country/the world is in; a day when I particularly need a lift, something to restore my faith in humanity. I feel extremely grateful, then, that it is tonight that I get to see the legendary Peaches. All round pop and punk icon, pioneer of sex positive queer feminism, multi-media artist and exceptional musician, I’ve been wanting to see her live for years, and this mind blowing experience couldn’t have come at a better time.
It also couldn’t have happened at a better venue; though it may not be considered the most ‘punk’ of places, the Royal Festival Hall is the perfect setting. With its epic, old time grandeur, high quality sound, and accessible, spaced out seating, you’re guaranteed a clear view and hearing from any angle, so all the usual gig worry of getting squashed, not being able to see/hear, and generally being uncomfortable or slightly stressed is taken away. I feel very honoured to be there, even before the show starts.
And then the spectacle begins – an all womxn band filled with strings, brass and percussion begin to play as dancers (aka ‘Clusterfuck’) appear in skin tight bodysuits dressed as sperm and vaginas. Peaches isn’t even on the stage yet, and the euphoric sex-positive vibes are already flowing.
Introduced by vibrant performer ‘Anita Drink’, Peaches takes to the stage, covered in layers of hair, for masturbation-celebration anthem ‘Rub’. Whilst a fantastic, stimulating start, it is only when Peaches urges everyone to “rise with me”, asserting “don’t let the stiffness of your seat stop you doing anything”, that we’re really able to climax. At her direction, the crowd immediately loses inhibitions and is able to fully immerse themselves in the incredible, unifying experience that is There’s Only One Peach With The Hole In The Middle.
As a fleet of living vaginas strut alongside her for ‘Vaginoplasty’, Peaches sheds her hair suit and commands our absolute attention with her flamboyant energy and magnetising charisma. Only a few songs in, and already the utterly inclusive and hugely empowering spirit oozing from Peaches has encompassed the entire venue, a sea of fans of all genders/ages/preferences celebrating the immense sense of freedom that being in the company of this performer induces. And no more so than when the modified lyrics of ‘I U She’ are chanted in unison – “Gender Fluid Make Some Noise”.
After a costume change into what seems to be a rather fetching pink swimsuit, Peaches is greeted to the stage once again by some snazzy keytars for ‘Talk To Me’ and, as she climbs into the crowd, taking a sip of a fan’s drink, she exudes all that admirable uninhibited sense of quirky cool, before climbing back onto the stage. Joined by none other than Iggy Pop (in virtual form on a screen), she bounces into ‘Kick It’ with a relentless, angsty energy.
Surrounded by raging guitars for ‘Rock Show’, the stage suddenly bursts into a frenzy, as dancers of all kinds swirl around her; a surrealist, truly joyous celebration of total inclusivity. From utter euphoria to the sound of discordant screeching strings, Peaches then reappears from an inflated, epic dress, in which dancers are squirming, for heartstring-tugging anthem ‘Free Drink Ticket’; showing herself capable of fusing together a rock show with an art installation; a classical ballet with a hip-hop battle. She is beyond genre, beyond gender, and beyond even my wildest expectations.
Joined once again by Anita Drink taking Kim Gordon’s place for ‘Close Up’, Peaches then comes in for her ‘Diva Moment’. Sharing that it’s not the first time she’s been here – she’s supported Suede at David Bowie’s Meltdown event in 2002, seen Grace Jones perform, and even sung alongside Yoko Ono – her nostalgic interlude reminds us that she certainly has every right to a ‘Diva Moment’ or few, and now that she’s here in her own right for her own mind-altering show, she deserves every single bit of attention possible.
Following the throbbing energy of ‘AA XXX’, Peaches swaps her hair suit for some cool shades and we’re treated to the utterly immersive, hypnotic hold of ‘Take You On’ performed on what looks two giant theramins (but are probably just lights). And, as she sings “you can’t mess with me”, I firmly believe this strong, impassioned performer standing before me.
And just when you think things can’t get any more totally breathtaking, an aerial gymnast is elevated up into the rafters, spinning and balancing impressively, all the while mesmerising the crowd with the lasers shooting out of her bum hole – a perfect accompaniment as Peaches belts out “I’ve got light in places you didn’t know could shine”, leaving us questioning if there’s anything this innovative artist hasn’t got in store to wow us with.
Then there’s the energy-fuelled boxing match-inspired dance moves of ‘Boys Wanna Be Her’; the all encompassing screeches of an incredible violinist’s strings as she’s carried off stage by a group of dancers; an absolutely immersive performance by one flexible male member (no pun intended..) of Clusterfuck to ‘I Feel Cream’; the totally unforgettable sight of two giant inflatable penises with someone dancing inside to ‘Dick In The Air’. There simply isn’t a moment when something completely spectacular isn’t taking place.
Whether Peaches is being joined once more by Anita Drink as we all shake our tits along to ‘Shake Yer Dix’, or we’re witnessing a breathtaking tower of dancers as Peaches blasts out ‘I Mean Something’, every single second blows me away.
I’m relieved, then, that there’s an encore. Peaches re-emerges as sparkly and spectacular as ever, plus a snazzy hat, for an impressive delivery of ‘Dumb Fuck, before going on to introduce every single person involved in the production of the show, including all stage managers and technicians; an admirable gesture for a performance of this scale, and one which only goes to demonstrate Peaches’ dedication to complete inclusivity.
With everyone on stage together, the show closes with celebratory anthem, and perhaps Peaches’ most well-known offering, ‘Fuck The Pain Away’. And so ends the most innovative, empowering, inspiring and utterly joyous show I think I’ve ever seen. Restore my faith in humanity, Peaches certainly has. Whether surrounded by spangling dancers, living vaginas, a marching band, or simply standing alone, chest bare, Peaches encompasses a perfect celebration of everything queer, wonderful, weird and totally life-affirming.
Photo Credit: Lydia Daniller