Beth Ditto – Brooklyn Steel – March 14, 2018
Beth Ditto is a force to be reckoned with as she sets forth sans her former band, Gossip. Pulling from her Southern roots for her first solo album, Fake Sugar, Ditto leaves behind power dance-punk for a more pop-rock sound that continues to showcase the “fat, feminist, lesbian from Arkansas” (her words). NPR Music put it best: “It’s become standard procedure to look askance at underground artists who take big swings at stardom. But if Beth Ditto becomes a full-blown mainstream star—as a queer plus-sized outspoken feminist with her own fashion line—it’ll come at the expense of every norm she’s spent her career working to tear down. Fake Sugar may be just the Trojan horse she needs.”
After an unfortunate cancelation of last year’s Rough Trade NYC appearance, Ditto returned healthy and ready to go for her show at Brooklyn Steel last night. Dressed in what she described was a “harlequin frog” jumpsuit, hammering basslines made way for the opener, “Oh My God.” The performance was a mix of the siren’s solo work and her past catalog with Gossip. “In and Out,” with harmonies that reminded me of Lucius, was a break from the largely dance-heavy set list, thanks to old favorite “Yr Mangled Heart” as well as new gems “Ooh La La” and the synth beats of “Open Heart Surgery.” As the spunky singer delighted the crowd with her humor, Ditto jiggled and pranced onstage affectionately referencing the burrito she had for dinner.
After reciting the tenets of a “Beth sentence”—never take yourself seriously and don’t do well in school—she led the audience in a sing-along of Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One.” All kidding aside, Ditto has used her music to define moments. Telling her story about being in London when the news of Trump’s presidential win hit, the Southern woman exclaimed that it’s the people who keeping moving on that define the times. “Power to the people,” declared Ditto before ending her set with “Standing in the Way of Control.” Following a brief stage exit only to return in gold sequins, the firecracker encored with a trio of “Heavy Cross,” “Fire” and a cover of “Dream a Little Dream.” —Sharlene Chiu