The Hummingbird, no the Carling Academy, no the 02 Academy, no the Forum lives again. Its latest incarnation is heavily skewed to club culture. There are club nights, and after Mike Skinner opened the thing the jewel in their autumn lineup is surely Bicep. I’ve written about their first album here, and their second album Isles is on my list of albums of the year.
Support was from an excellent DJ, whose name I cannot trace anywhere. But after perhaps one of the longer openers,as he was on for about an hour and a half, it was Bicep time. Their stage presence was in the great tradition of all electronic duos: walk on, stand behind keyboards, walk off. No rockin the decks or working the crowd. Just a couple of dancefloor engineers at work here.
Visuals were shapes and colours, all very abstract and geometrical. They gave the eye something to focus on besides two men in t-shirts.
But it was really all about the music: an hour of seamless mix followed by an encore featuring two tracks (Glue and Apricots) played in a more conventional manner. And what a great hour it was. Their mix of arpeggiated melodies, layered textures and beats that were house 4 to the floor but with a little bit of break on top worked incredibly well live. Always changing, always evolving with a core set of melodies and musical ideas behind each track the hour of subtly shifting sounds was just mesmerising. Try and imagine Reich’s Music For Sixteen Musicians or In C, but as played by musicians who have grown up listening to Pete Tong on a Friday night. Whether the music or the post-lockdown need for losing it, it connected with the entire room in a visceral and immediate way. Everyone from front to back was dancing.
And this is what you get with the best electronic acts live – thinking Squarepusher who I also saw recently, Leftfield, the Chemicals – not just a set of their tracks, but a feeling that they are djing using their own tracks as the source, weaving for this audience a one-night only mix. They’re far more radical with re-editing, juxtaposing and remixing than anyone save perhaps Bob Dylan is with their own material. Sure it’s all sequenced and probably thought-through, but it comes over as way more live than half the acts I’ve seen with an acoustic guitar.
Great gig and can’t wait to hear what they do next, the inheritors of the ‘great dance duo’ torch from the Chemicals, F++k Buttons
20s and 30s, but with a sprinkling of older ravers and at least a few people older than us. Keen to use the bar, as the crush by 9 was massive. Keen to lose it on the dancefloor. Keen to take out their mobiles and hold aloft.
It made me think..
That that was probably the best gig I’ve been two for several years. And that the best are usually not some legend you have been dying to see for years, but a band you quite like with plenty of room to exceed expectation.
Also £20 for a poster – which in time-honoured fashion any purchased will be taken into the crowd 20 mins later to emerge hopelessly mangled. The merch stall was not busy.