Warning: This performance may feature strobe lighting effects. It may also feature frantic LED mania and a 30-foot mirror on stage so you can catch yourself pogoing in the front row. Yes, it does look like Vitalic’s latest show for his Flashmob LP is sprinkling some disco dust around the Academy. It’s not a night of gold lamÃ© leggings and handclaps though – Frenchman Pascal Arbez is taking back what’s rightfully his. After straddling the punk/techno divide with his debut album OK Cowboy and a trail of incendiary live shows, he vanished for a year or two while his French compatriots in the Ed Banger crew moved in to steal his thunder.
Resisting the urge to pad out his live show with -real’ instruments and a live band with bells and whistles, Monsieur Arbez arrives at the Academy armed only with a laptop, keyboard and controllers. With his crisp black shirt and bald head he looks like he could out-Kraftwerk Florian Schneider himself, but he’s no static Showroom Dummy. For 90 minutes he gives a masterclass in banging techno. Pity the fools of a paranoid disposition – he has vocoders set to stun throughout, with all manner of garbled robot wailing and subliminal Vader-esque messages. He drops the standout Flashmob track -Terminateur Benelux’ a few minutes in, its manic ‘HA HA’ refrain spliced with short circuited riffs from Flashmob‘s title track. It’s soon obvious this isn’t a deep house-style -journey’ with the big tunes stored til the end.
The last time State caught Vitalic was at the now-defunct Garden Party festival in Co Meath in 2007, when he tore the place up and made Hot Chip look like a skiffle band when they sheepishly came on after his techno onslaught. He’s playing the same hand tonight – looping layers of keys, snatches of familiar riffs surfacing and warping into new ones, while the relentless kango hammer kick drum tears the arse clean out of the Academy’s sound rig. The crowd is going wild too – from the near mosh-pit at the front to the so-called VIPs punching the air on the balcony’s perimeter. He takes the odd breather; the Italo synths of -Poison Lips’, the odd kick-free build-up – but the beat just crashes in harder every time. He lights the double fuse of -La Rock 01′ and -Flashmob’ again for more fireworks and gets a bit carried away, pulling off some bizarre karate chop dance moves, then cuts it out for an interlude of the Chemical Brothers’ -Galvanize’ – one of the night’s head-scratching highlights. After the grand finale of -Your Disco Song’, -My Friend Dario’ and the sci-fi euphoria of -Second Lives’ the Academy crowd spills out on the street, wringing out their t-shirts. A Vitalic show isn’t the most subtle or cerebral experience, but sometimes it’s good to go a bit mental.