Reunions, reunions, reunions. A quick glance at the majority of European festivals happening this summer and you’d think we’re still back at the tail end of the last century. Faith No More, Pixies, Orbital, Pavement, The Libertines, Soundgarden and tonight’s heritage act Leftfield are all gracing stages this year.
So how would this ’90s dance act fare in 2010? For a start, we were on rocky ground before the gig when it was announced that only Neil Barnes from the original duo would be touring while Paul Daley decided to concentrate on getting his solo album out (10 years in the making? Why not wait another year?). This fact didn’t bode well for reunion tour (you can’t have a reunion of two people if one doesn’t show up) but five minutes into the set, that worry was dispelled as Barnes and three other live members including drummer Sebastian Beresford were knee deep in Leftism’s ‘Song of Life’. The crowd went nuts when the uptempo bass squelch hit in about halfway through and nothing else mattered. Nostalgia or nay, these were great songs that deserved another celebration.
With heavy focus on Leftism material on the night (indeed only two songs ‘Africa Shox and ‘Phat Planet’ were aired from the still-fresh followup album Rhythm and Stealth), occasionally the songs sounded pretty dated, like songs from 1995 – which in fairness, they indeed are. ‘Original’ featuring live vocals from a technicolour dress-kitted Jess Mills on the night sounded decidedly retro, not that it stopped people singing along. It was always a dub-heavy trip-hop Massive Attack-esque cast-off.
There were some surprises in store though: ‘Afro Left’ with Djum Djum’s African house-flavoured mantra and vocodered vocals worked wonderfully; ‘Release The Pressure’, the album’s opening track got a rare live airing with reggae MC Earl 16 toasting over the top and album track ‘Space Shanty’ was a classic techno workout. At one point, there were seven people on stage performing – many more than State expected.
There were few more disappointments. MC Chesire Cat rambled over ‘Inspection (Check One)’ to the point where the song meandered and never really got going, ditto for ‘Storm 3000’ and the John Lydon-featuring ‘Open Up’ wasn’t in the setlist.
These quibbles were forgotten as soon as the final expected encore, the shuddering bass ping-pong juggernaut of ‘Phat Planet’ roared from the speakers. Eight minutes of classic dance music which brought big cheers when the beats dropped about four minutes in. It was a incendiary ending and a reminder of what Leftfield could deliver even if only one of them turned up. Definitely, a worthy festival addition to the summer. Go see them at Electric Picnic or Rockness.
Photo by Luke Joyce from Belfast.