SAN DIEGO — It is very possible that a year from now no one will care enough about the group Deee-Lite to cross the room to hear them, let alone an international border. That's life in the flash lane, the reality of being a sensation in an era of short attention spans and Warholian fame. As implied by its name, however, Deee-Lite currently is dance-pop's dessert du jour, and on Tuesday night fans packed the Iguanas club in Tijuana, literally from floor to rafters, for the trio's show.
While waiting in long lines outside the club, many of those fans grumbled loudly, albeit peaceably, about a delay that pushed the concert's starting time back more than 90 minutes. They were lucky the concert happened at all.
Around noon that day, the truck driver hauling the group's equipment tried to cross the border at the wrong checkpoint and was detained for more than seven hours. Tricky negotiations with Mexican officials eventually untangled the mess, and following a belated preconcert dance party featuring San Diego canned-music entrepreneurs Playskool and Geraldine, Deee-Lite took the stage a little after 11 p.m.
Deee-Lite is Ohio-born singer-dancer and front-woman Lady Miss Kier, and her male counterparts, Ukrainian-born Super DJ Dmitry, and Japanese-born Jungle DJ Towa Towa. With a pan-cultural glee, and employing state-of-the-art music technology, they've Osterized the music, clothing styles, and ideologies of the last three decades into a mash of disco, psychedelic funk, bubble gum pop, hip-hop, and global one-ness they call "holographic techno-soul."
Deee-Lite's visual assault--they overlook few icons of sartorial bad taste while favoring a late-'60s-rummage-sale look--has made the group a staple of MTV. An appearance on "Saturday Night Live" confirmed its cutting-edge currency.
In concert, Deee-Lite was backed by a five-piece band that included bassist Bootsy Collins, famous for his early-'70s membership in George Clinton's outrageous poly-funk conglomerate, Parliament-Funkadelic, and later for his own project, Bootsy's Rubber Band. Clad in his trademark galactic-cowboy togs, Collins contributed booming fundamentals to Deee-Lite's techno-throb and served as a visual and musical link to the past that Deee-Lite has plundered.
But while actual, live musicians augmented Deee-Lite's heavily sampled, programmed sound, it is perhaps more fitting to refer to Tuesday night's performers not as a band but as an "outfit." That term would seem consistent with Deee-Lite's focal point, Kier, whose frequent costume changes, dancing, and campy sexuality provided the only reasons to remain fixed on the stage. (For all his garish splendor, Collins regrettably played little more than a supporting role in the show).
Kier took the stage bookended by female singer-dancers, one of whom held the base of a princess telephone while Kier cooed girl-talk into the receiver. The singer wore a red pageboy wig and a Barbarella ensemble that included a lavender skintight, wet-look jump suit and matching evening gloves topped by a hot- pink feather boa. Kier doffed the boa to sing the opening song, "What Is Love?"
During "World Clique," the title track of last year's best-selling album, Kier's two dancing aides-de-camp held aloft inflatable world globes while Kier sang in an outfit consisting of a purple-and-white-checkered body suit covered by a diaphanous, lime-green jacket. On her head rested a large, pink feathery hat that Carol Channing would have found distasteful. For the wah-wah-guitar-driven "Who Was That?" Kier wore a white assembly that made her look like a cocktail waitress on "The Jetsons." She sang "Good Beat" in a black cat-woman body glove.
Meanwhile, spacey graphics were projected onto a scrim behind the stage in a modest approximation of a '60s light show. Considering Kier's Kewpie-doll manner and the mint-mousse content of Deee-Lite's messages, this was psychedelia filtered through "Josie and the Pussycats."
Over the course of the two-hour show, Kier would both sing and speak of world unity and brotherhood with a cosmic chirpiness that conjured images of Barbara Eden's "I Dream of Jeannie" character addressing the United Nations and recommending "niceness" as a cure for the world's ills. The singer lost her cartoon cool only once.
After intermittent admonishments to a few troublemakers at the foot of the stage who insisted on pushing and shoving in the crush of the dance floor, Kier stopped the music late in the show and chastised the perpetrators for ruining the experience for those who had come for a "good time."
The brief, expletive-littered scolding forced Kier out of character and introduced an element of gray reality that in other shows might have seemed unfortunate. After an hour-plus of Deee- Lite's goofy "sampladelic" delirium, however, it was most welcome.