Jake Shears, Sonic Yootha: Arts Club, Liverpool

By Shaun Ponsonby
Wed 22 August, 2018

The former Scissor Sisters man brings his solo show to the Arts Club, where Shaun Ponsonby finds a vibrant,  colourful and thoroughly Queer show. 

Jake Shears seems to be coming out of a dark period of his life. “Sometimes you just have to do what will make you happy,” he explains. “And I wanted to leave my husband and move to New Orleans”.

He released his self-titled debut solo effort just a couple of weeks ago, and his UK tour is striking while the iron is hot. Yet already, swathes of the crowd know the record word for word.

It’s been so long since we’ve seen Shears that we almost forgot what a consummate showman he is. After an intro of All That Jazz from the musical Chicago, he bounces on stage in a top hat and tails, with glitter covering as much of him as possible.

You can tell the new material was written in Louisiana; there’s a slight jazzy backdrop to it all, with Jake adding a sort of vaudeville sheen with his antics. This is only amplified halfway through opener Good Friends when he counts down to reveal a saxophonist unexpectedly joining him on stage.

Scissor Sisters became an increasingly electronic act over time, but tonight’s setting didn’t even have a keyboard player. This was bare bones.

But of course he dropped a handful of classics, and it was clear that the crowd warmed themselves in their nostalgic glow; Laura had us going nuts from the first note, Take Your Mama saw Jake singing in the crowd and main set closer I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’ proved that it still defies it’s title all of these years later.

They weren’t necessarily the best moments, though. Shears’ theatrical flair managed to improve new songs from their studio versions. Clothes Off saw him doing just that – ripping off his sparkly trousers to reveal a leotard and stockings, and an extended The Bruiser saw him going full Liza Minelli in Cabaret.

Scissor Sisters were always an unashamedly Queer act, and perhaps this is why they were much more successful in the UK than in America (and probably why Shears has launched his new album here). Today we’re finding Queer culture in vogue, with drag conventions and artists like Big Freedia either creeping into the mainstream, or being fully accepted by people who do not identify as Queer.

We would go as far as to state that Shears, along with his former band, were a major part of this sea of change. For a while, they were arguably the best pop band in the world. As a result, seeing Shears’ show tonight doesn’t feel like a man remembering the good times. This was a vibrant, colourful and thoroughly Queer show that, despite its occasionally retro presentation, feels very now.

Jake Shears may be the best pop frontman in the last two decades, and we can only hope this is the start of a whole new phase.

Opening up were the DJ’s from Liverpool’s finest club night, Sonic Yootha. They did exactly what we would have wanted them to do, mixing it up between the New York Dolls’ protopunk, Madonna’s pop perfection, Dusty Springfield’s blue eyed soul, and Sylvester the disco Queen.

There isn’t a band in the world who could have been a more perfect opener for Shears. Yootha delivered as they always do.

Pictures by Mark Holmes