Hammer’s Greg Moffitt went to see Bee Gees metal tribute act Tragedy last week. Not only was it a blast, but it reminded him why novelty bands can still kick ass…
Novelty bands have always proved divisive in the realms of rock and metal. Comedy bands, joke bands, spoof bands…call them what you will, but acts fooling around and indulging in blatant frivolity are guaranteed to draw the ire of those defenders of the faith for whom heavy metal is a deadly serious business. From Gwar (RIP Oderus) and Lawnmower Deth to Green Jelly and the currently in-vogue, Steel Panther, each decade produces a clutch of clowns to entertain and infuriate. The fact that such outfits persist – although individual ‘careers’ may be remarkably short – reminds us, however, that metal has always displayed an innate sense of humour and unlike many other genres of music, is capable of laughing at itself.
The most ardent fans of Spinal Tap and Bad News are, after all, metal fans themselves. Billed as an “all metal tribute to the Bee Gees and beyond”, New York’s Tragedy are the latest novelty outfit to emerge onto the scene. Their mission: to “take your favourite Bee Gees, disco and soft-rock classics and reinvent them in a heavy metal fashion”. Fresh from their show headlining the opening night of HammerFest, the band are currently on the last leg of their UK tour.
Zakky Boy Taylor, frontman with main support act A Joker’s Rage, is outside the venue having a cigarette. “I’ve seen Tragedy before and they’re thoroughly entertaining,” he says. “Supporting these guys is like a night out for us! I’m very hard to impress when it comes to live bands. The industry is saturated with bands now and what I find is that when it comes to the theatrical aspect of what Tragedy do – and we’re a little bit like that ourselves – I love it. I think a lot of people have forgotten the visual aspect of a live show. It’s so important. It used to be the main focal point and that got lost somewhere down the line.”
Amazingly, two fans from the Isle Of Man – Justin and Jo – are following Tragedy as they make their way around the country. “We first saw them at Camden Underworld,” says Justin, “and they were brilliant! A good night’s entertainment. They’re very good at what they do.” “They’ve all got such great voices that they can carry it off,” adds Jo, “and if we can’t have some fun with this, what’s the bloody point? Even if you /really/ love metal, it’s not all serious.”
Inside the club, it’s about as far from serious as you can get. Exploding on stage in a riot of spandex, leather, sequins and stunning facial hair, the Tragedy experience emphasizes fun and frolics, but it quickly becomes apparent that it’s not at the expense of the music. And that’s the kicker. You may not have them on your iPod, but there’s simply no denying the quality of these songs, metal makeover or not. Night Fever and Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees, We Are Family by Sister Sledge becomes We Are Tragedy, Slayer’s Raining Blood morphs into The Weather Girls’ Raining Men… even Abba get a look in with a sly-winking rendition of Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight). As they close out with Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse Of The Heart (penned by Meat Loaf collaborator Jim Steinman let’s not forget), the words of Maximus in Gladiator spring to mind; “Are you not entertained?” Camp as a row of tents and with more hooks than hell’s cloakroom, Tragedy guarantee it.