For a band that tries so hard to be eclectic, New York’s Scissor Sisters have been remarkably consistent on one count — both of their albums contain only one great song. So when they opened their Los Angeles show at the Shrine Expo Hall with “Take Your Mama Out,” the standout track from their 2004 self-titled debut (“I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’,” the first single and best song from “Ta-Dah,” their recently released sophomore effort, was the 75-minute show’s penultimate song), you have to assume they have a great deal of confidence.
And confidence is one thing the cabaret/electro/glam quintet does not lack. Frontman Jake Shears has the glittery costume, laminated good looks and boundless energy of a circus ringmaster, and his onstage partner, Ana Matronic, presents a tart foil with a Mae West-style dry wit; their onstage repartee is one of the evening’s consistent highlights. And the band certainly has a remarkable facility to recreate the sounds of early and mid-’70s AM radio pop.
But nothing else matches the two aforementioned tunes’ smartly goosed-up takes on Elton John. Only their cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb,” combining the falsetto vocals of “Saturday Night Fever” Bee Gees with Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s post-punk disco bump-and-grind, comes close. The rest of the evening was given over to tired pastiches (“She’s My Man”), forced naughtiness protesting New York’s nightlife regulations (“Tits on the Radio”) and a mixture of glam rock and vaudeville that worked so well in the British miniseries “Rock Follies” but feels strained here.
It’s easier to hear the Scissor Sisters’ appeal on album, or at least in another venue. The Shrine Expo Hall is better suited to trade shows than concerts; if the planned demolition of the Palladium occurs, this cavernous, two-story box would become the worst venue in Los Angeles (the Moorish arches that ring the space are lovely, though). The sound bounces around the concrete and whitewashed stucco so that any details in the vocals and arrangements are lost. But for three songs, the Scissor Sisters are good enough to make their case wherever they play.
Scissor Sisters play Gotham’s Manhattan Center Ballroom on Oct. 21.