Most people are familiar with the old adage that there "is no such thing as bad publicity." I don't know if that's true or not, but The Orwells definitely seemed determined to test that theory for their performance at the Star Theater on Wednesday night. After a well received 94/7 Session earlier in the day and solid but unremarkable opening sets from garage-rockers Twin Peaks and Criminal Hygiene, expectations were high when the Illinois rockers took the stage, but it didn't take long for things to go off the rails. What followed was equal parts triumph and train-wreck.
Raspy-voiced lead singer Mario Cuomo, who looks like the reincarnation of David Lee Roth and Axl Rose, has the most unusual stage presence of any artist I've seen in recent memory. During songs, he prowls the stage like sleazy lounge singer, rolls his eyes in the back of his head while he sings, and occasionally stares blankly into the crowd for unnervingly long periods of time. In between hits such as "Who Needs You" and "Dirty Sheets," Cuomo was prone to launch into profanity-laden invective and other shenanigans, such as spraying beer onto fans, mooning the crowd, and a couple of other things that I can't mention in a family-friendly Live Music Blog. When a fan was removed from the venue for crowd-surfing, Cuomo let out a steady stream of obscenities and repeatedly threatened to punch one of the Star's staff members in the face. (Can you imagine any of this happening at, say, a Bastille concert? Yeah, me neither.)
It's hard to tell whether or not The Orwells are as genuinely unhinged as they seem, but their performance definitely resonated with the folks that crowded up to the front of the venue to hear them play (and eventually participate in a massive crowd-surfing melee). On the other hand, I caught at least a couple of more mild-mannered souls leaving the show early, shaking their heads and wearing rather shell-shocked expressions on their faces. This underlines, I think, The Orwells' greatest liability - despite being very talented, their antics constantly threaten to detract from their music.
I overheard the situation outside. The kid was brought outside and told not to jump back up on stage and to serve a "cool down" moment, I guess. The head of security was going to let him back in, that was until everyone jumped down his throat. I don't know if the kid was let back in, or not, but I was one of the ones who thought the lead singer's actions where entirely idiotic.