Live Review: Chris Cunningham, Manchester Opera House

Posted on 27 April 2010
By Dom Martin
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Chris Cunningham, Manchester Opera House,
22, April

An eerie silence settled over a well-oiled crowd at the Manchester Opera House as the shadowy figure positioned himself before a bank of three computer screens and a mixer. It felt as though the crowd had drew breath, awaiting an insight into a psyche Sigmund Freud wouldn’t even know where to start with.

The opening video was conventionally Cunningham in its depiction of the battle of the sexes. A battle of the sexes it most certainly was. The initial shock of a naked man punching a naked woman was then displaced by the woman’s hammerblow to the man’s chest.

The crowd wooped and whistled for more, as the emerging heroine slugged it out with an ever-advancing Neanderthal. The brutal violence on-screen was matched with f’d-up breakbeat. This is entertainment for a generation fed on violence, where as soon as you are old enough to hold a joystick/controller, you’re shooting hell out of something.

Cunningham’s video for ‘Sheena is a Parasite’ by The Horrors was up next. It reminded me of Madonna’s video for ‘Ray of Light’, except this Madonna looked like she had spent the night on controlled substances, or sprinting through a darkened woodland from a sociopathic axe-wielding high-school drop-out.

The primal barking of Faris Badwan echoed through the Opera House, and highlighted the point that The Horrors now manage to pack such a punch live not through clattering drums and screaming vocals but through a building, menacing, well-orchestrated swell.

‘Windowlicker’ proved to be the mid-set reprieve. Never have I been more glad to see Richard D. James’ face superimposed on a glamour model’s body. It got the biggest cheer of the night by a long way. This was the moment where he hit notoriety, by completely subverting every other video MTV had shown before. This was the moment Carson Daly feared. This was the day the music (video) died.

‘Rubber Johnny’ one of his more recent videos ended what was one of the most visceral audiovisual experiences the North West has surely seen (and that includes getting trapped at the front of a McFly gig at Aintree Racecourse). For those of you who have not seen it, I don’t want to give too much away, but here are a few flashwords. Wheelchair. Alien. Chicken skin. Xerox. Enjoy.