Live Review: Peter Combe, Astrid And The Asteroids

26 September 2012 | 6:00 am | Sam Hobson

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It's clear the spell of Peter Combe has bewitched the Tempo Hotel from the outset of tonight's proceedings. Everything's quiet, and neat. People are friendly, young-ish, and are all wearing hats made out of thick, folded newspaper. There's no tangle of hanging arms and fighting voices outside on the balcony – empty, but for a splash of moonlight – no, this gathering, it seems, is all about restraint – it's all about wholesome, courteous, tucked-in fun.

But Tempo feels a little dead, at first. It's hot, and terribly still, and the stage lights are gaudy and fierce. There's a cultish fever to the air; clucky renditions of Combe's Newspaper Mama drift across the tables, variously stopping short in fits of tickled laughter. Suddenly, there's a flash of sequins, and a band led by a female singer in a sparkling-jacketed one-piece are upon us. “We're in a space band,” claims lead singer Astrid of She and The Asteroids, as they launch into a manically syncopated beat. Sounding like a jumble of great ideas unfortunately all acted-upon at once, The Asteroids seem at first too weird and dense for the go-lucky crowd. But, this reviewer be damned, everyone quickly gets into what can best be described as some giddy convulsion of prog-pop-tinged glam-funk. Playing right into tonight's '90s niche, the band peak on covers of the Round The Twist theme-song, and a surprisingly lucid version of Foxy Lady.

Between then and Peter Combe, something happens. The floor loosens. People drink, shirts become untucked. A chair falls over (and is politely picked up again). On stage, a band begins to play. The mic stand sits empty, and the crowd begins to roar. Paper hats bob up and down in a sea of triangles. From afar, it looks like a bring your kids to work day at the KKK playhouse. Peter Combe, famed child performer, walks slightly hunched onto stage, and the floor becomes a cacophony. Everyone here is happy-fucked, immediately. Combe raises his mouth to the mic, and launches into The Walking Song.

The room is filled with girlish affection. Combe breaks between songs to chat in his adorable Pee-Wee Herman voice about where each song comes from, dropping hints about what's coming up next. It's everyone's childhood, unmoved. We're all kids again, and it's strangely emotional. Saturday Night is next, then the endlessly silly Bahgdad, which is then followed by the desperately cute Rock This Little Baby; a song about his new niece. (Combe is a man on whom the simple pleasures of a pun are not lost.) By the time Chopsticks rolls 'round, it feels like a revelation, and by Rain, most of us are a wet mess.

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