Cobra Starship - 9th February 2010 - The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton
Energetic pop-punk triumph in a downgraded venue.
Despite having launched off the back of a box-office letdown (2006’s snakes on a plane), Cobra Starship have done remarkably well for themselves. Their first released single to accompany the movie, “Snakes On A Plane (Bring It)”, was a minor chart success but it’s not been until the release of 2009’s “Good Girls Go Bad” (with a helping feature from Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester) that the band have been propelled into the spotlight with their third album, “Hot Mess”. The single is now nearly double platinum, but all the same, it’s not surprising that just days before their show in Wolverhampton, they were shifted from a 1700 capacity venue to a much smaller, cozier 550 capacity venue just five minutes away.
However, it doesn’t affect their stage show in any way. Having seen them perform on a larger stage before, they do seem to enjoy the space to move around more, but they thrive in smaller venues and on smaller stages where crowd interaction is at an all-time high. Openers Plastiscines fall somewhat flat, with an awkward first impression thanks to a partial cover of Cobra Starship’s “The City Is At War” followed by a stunt where they tell the crowd that the rest of the bands will refuse to play if the crowd don’t clap their hands. Family Force 5 perform a lot better, with seasoned fans in the crowd and hooks that are catchy enough for new fans to pick up and sing along to by the second chorus, as well as stage energy that fills the room.
Cobra Starship come onstage to flashing lights and intro music before they launch into “The City is at War” - a sure crowd pleaser, the band doesn’t disappoint and by the end of the song the entire room is on its feet. They run through “[Redacted] is the Only Reason We’re Famous”, then the punchy and energetic “Nice Guys Finish Last” complete with finger-snapping. Between every few songs there is a slightly frustrating amount of banter - whilst amusing it runs on a long time, and afterwards I found out there was heckling from the back of the crowd for the band to just get on with the songs. They perform a seamless melody of “Kiss My Sass”, cutting the song short where Gym Class Heroes frontman Travis McCoy usually comes in to rap a verse, “My Moves Are White (White Hot, That Is)”, and “Wet Hot American Summer” before they again spend some time talking to the crowd.
If you want to see a band that is perfect live, don’t go see Cobra Starship. They are very on the ball musically, and very, very entertaining – they are all very talented and brilliant with the crowd and fans – but if you are looking for something that is perfect vocals-wise, they are not the band to see. Suffering from cysts on his vocal chords in 2008 that forced singer Gabe Saporta to cancel shows and a UK tour then go in for surgery to remove them, his voice is no longer quite as strong and live performances are more difficult as a result. They are still a really great show and it is probably the most fun you can have without getting drunk.
Technical difficulties with Victoria Asher’s keytar extend some of the talking whilst she switched over to her back up, but nothing too dragging as the talking is a decent breather between the high energy - dancing and jumping galore - of the songs. Not to mention the band decided to play a short game of what they called “Call Out Boy”, in which bassist Alex Suarez admitted to the crowd that as a child he was urinated on in the bathrooms by another boy before they began running through older favorites - “The Church Of Hot Addiction”, “Send My Love To The Dancefloor, I’ll See You In Hell (Hey Mr DJ)” and “Smile For The Paparazzi”.
The crowd really comes alive for set staple “Snakes On A Plane” where a fan is picked from the crowd to perform the infamous rap verse. A set-screw up where Gabe got the songs in the wrong order meant they changed the order of the last four songs - playing “Guilty Pleasure”, which probably gets the strongest reaction out of the older songs with the addition of a dance routine performed during the chorus, followed by “The Scene Is Dead, Long Live The Scene” (usually played during the encore), which despite having a faster tempo during the chorus is lyrically quite a sad song and, according to a lot of fans, quite the tear-jerker live, being softly sung by Gabe at the mic stand. It is probably a song performed best live - it suits the state his voice is in and speaks to a lot of fans on a different level, possibly the most honest song on the album or at least the most honest one they will perform live.
“Hot Mess”, their newest single, brings back the party atmosphere. Fans who pay close attention will notice that the breakdown of “If you’re dancing up on tables/You go, you go you got it girl/Say that you’re unstable/You go, coco, you got it girl” refer to songs performed by their former keytarist Elisa Schwartz, who later surfaced on a TV show claiming that she had stalked him and gone ‘psycho’. It’s a fitting response to the trouble she caused - at the time let go with the excuse of pursuing her solo material, she then stirred trouble with a long letter claiming that she barely even knew she’d been kicked out of the band.
The final song of the night is that hit single of theirs, “Good Girls Go Bad”, with keytarist Victoria taking over the duties of the female vocals - with no auto tune and actually a better attitude than Leighton Meester, who should (no offense Leighton) stick to acting over being a musician. She sings tonight with two broken ribs - one completely broken and the other cracked - but it doesn’t affect her performance, which from when she first sang this song for them last year has grown in leaps and bounds in terms of confidence and ability. The song undeniably gets the largest reaction, with most fans at the show being brand new to the Cobra Starship experience.
The show ends kicking, screaming, sweating, on an all time high with a crush at the front as Gabe stands in the crowd, grinning down and clapping hands with the fans. And suddenly that’s it, it’s all over and everyone is moving towards the merchandise area or out of the door, but there’s still a breathless buzz in the air - the kind of buzz where you know people have had an absolutely fantastic time, one that would be well worth having again.
(photo credit to lifelikethiss on flickr)