Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Monday, April 09, 2007 
Sidney Myer Music Bowl

The "dance music" themed day of the Festival seems to be slightly less popular (giving us more room to dance), but right from the word go, the quality is apparent. The Rapture played to a 10% full bowl in lingering daylight with several dozen fans clamouring at the front fruitlessly exhorting others to get up and dance. This was no environment for any band to kick out the jams, but they did play a stylish gig that anywhere else would have torn up the place. Opening with a blistering Out Of The Races, they play many songs off their recent Pieces Of The People We Love album (most notably Woo Alright Yeah Uh Huh, The Devil and The Sound), and a curiously slow version of the typically blinding House Of Jealous Lovers. Clearly happy to be playing at all, singer and guitarist Luke Jenner gladhands fans during the closing Olio while Presets-t-shirt-sporting bassist Mattie Safer kept the bottom end rock solid and effortlessly danceable as he does all gig. A great band, pity there was no local side show.

Gnarls Barkley immediately win the crowd over by not being an electro duo but instead a 12-piece ensemble (including 4-piece string ensemble The G-Strings) bedecked in school uniforms and tartan. By the time Cee-Lo takes the stage to a segue of Another Brick In The Wall Part 2 and School's Out, the warm vibes are only boosted by his gospel-like approach and comments like "Can we get the lights on you? I've come a long way and I want to know who loves me and who I need to love." Of course people were hanging out for the song he introduces as:"An instant classic and there reason I am rich and famous and here." (which does indeed rock in the way you hope it would) but before Crazy we are given St Elsewhere, Gone Daddy Gone and The Boogie Monster all in blazing, bombastic fashion that is hard to resist. Cee-Lo's voice seems tired and he doesn't hold notes for long, but his exuberance (particularly an entertaining battle with a mic stand) more than makes up for vocal fatigue; "I'm 300 pounds, are YOU tired?"

Exuberance is something that could help Groove Armada make their coffee-table funk (interspersed with an attempt at coffee-table dancehall) memorable. For reasons best known to themselves, they rely alot on sampled vocals and guitar - despite having a virtually redundant guitarist and two fine vocalists. This undercuts what should be a barnstorming I See You Baby and lovely At The River and My Friend but instead mildly diverting visuals spice up a stagnant band playing limp funk with very predictable drum rolls leading into very predictable basslines. Nice trombone though.

The Pet Shop Boys. 26 years on and they're still an impossibly perfect marriage of Noel Coward and Kraftwerk. Featuring a brilliant use of visuals, breakdancers who regularly venture into interpretive dance, enough costume changes to keep Elton John on his toes (gold lame cowboy outfits, neon jackets, dapper suits etc.), comes gem after gem of pop genius. Left To My Own Devices, Suburbia, Can You Forgive Her open, and we're won. Songs from last year's Fundamental album (Minimal, Integral and The Sodom and Gomorrah Show) stand up well, but the crowd want the favourites; Heart, Always On My Mind, Domino Dancing, West End Girls, It's A Sin and the closer (on the non-camp chapter of their career as well as tonight's show) Go West elicit huge cheers. Few decent 80s bands age this well, and, watching the slow-motion black and white montage of crowd footage during Chris Lowe's solo Paninaro it struck just how graceful and warm they can be, unlike so many other bands from their era. Neil's voice has lost some resonance and character since their heyday, but he seems to be having more fun than ever. This was a triumph; a lesson of aging gracefully while putting on a show that has Christmas panto-camp, political allusions and a dancing top hat bound in one.

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