Friday, September 29, 2023

Princess Goes to Birmingham

Michael C Hall’s band Princess Goes aka Princess Goes to the Butterfly Farm is an unusual mix. An actor and two musicians? A musical actor and two musical legends? Hall is backed up by drummer Peter Yanowitz (The Wallflowers, Morningwood) and guitarist and keyboard maestro Matt Katz-Bohen (Blondie). 

Has Hall’s TV and stage fame enabled the band to go straight in at the top without the hard slog that faces other aspiring bands? 

Or does the music warrant a rightful place on the stage for Princess Goes’ eclectic mix of 80s-influenced West Coast punk-pop?

Ably supported by the ethereal, raunchy, provocative, wistful, whimsical soul-searchings of Beija Flo, Princess Goes are certainly attracting a devoted following who think that, yes, they’ve earned their place, in this case at Birmingham’s O2 Institute as part of a European tour, coinciding with the launch of the new album ‘Come of Age’.

The mysterious, backlit, dark and moody art house presentation of the set played heavily on Hall’s stage background and as a front man he’s clearly putting his variety of skills to good use. Maybe singers whose route to the stage was purely through performing music are more likely to lean on the mic stand and wave their arms, whereas Hall gives a performance that’s closer to interpretive dance than to the strutting you might usually associate with a rock star. It’s a live version of what you’ll see in the videos for their songs, for example ‘Blur’ which was squarely on the set list to the delight of the crowd.

The show opened with Hall appearing on stage, drifting in and out of the light, performing the opening song ‘Bombed Out Sites’ to backing tracks, creating an other-wordly sense of curiosity before then being joined by his bandmates to launch into the set proper.

Whizzing through 20 songs in around 90 minutes, the pace left little room for Hall to interact with the audience, but no doubt they were there for the music, not the small talk. What they did get was appreciated and appreciative, though, from the self-corrected pronunciation of “Birmingham” to the “We love it here!” at the end. This wasn’t self-indulgent rock though, it had more of a sense of serving a hungry audience as quickly and thoroughly as possible, with a side order of minimalist theatre.

From the teased opening to the closing ‘Come Talk to Me’ presented as a parody of an encore, Princess Goes rattled through one alternative punk-pop, mind-twisting commentary to the next, mixing songs from ‘Come of Age’ with a selection of previous releases from the 2021 album ‘Thanks for Coming’. Highlighting the fan favourites ‘Ketamine’, ‘Cruel World’, ‘Come Talk to Me’, ‘Eat an Eraser’ and ‘Vicious’, the set had a sense of urgency, as if Hall is trying to express something through the connection into the minds and lifestyles of the audience. Bleak at times, raw, a social commentary as much as the airing of a personal diary.

This was more than a gig. It was theatrical, even spiritual, a glimpse into a creative mind, laid bare in the spirit of all great performances.

Peter Freeth



Images: Peter Freeth

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