With an unprecedented level of politeness from the traditionally distasteful Academy staff, one of whom tonight even smiled at me, the mood was light and breezy, like the evening outside this most prominent South London music barn. Arriving at 8:30, we discovered that local boys Basement Jaxx were not due on stage until 10:45 – an unprecedented line-up of DJs, including Soul II Soul‘s Jazzie B and, in between his two sets, Wookie, were scheduled to entertain an audience that was as mixed as it was up for a dance.
Having never before been to a Basement Jaxx Rooty – their own Brixton club-night-in-a-pub from which the new album derives its name – I was unsure if this level of musicianship was to be expected or not, but, being used to one or at the most two support acts, I was pleasantly surprised. The only mild disappointment with Jazzie B’s set was that he managed to include Gorillaz‘s Clint Eastwood, but none of Soul II Soul’s ample repertoire of top tunes. Mr B did not engage at all with the audience anyway, so there was no point in asking for such things.
The headliners appeared to rapturous applause, on a raised rostrum at the back of the Academy’s deep stage, two unassuming chaps with their gadgets; how would they fill the colossal stage? Well… starting with recent top 10 single Romeo, they filled it with almost anything that could be imagined. Dancers in exotic costumes, guest vocalists and all sorts of extras combined to give the whole event a carnival-like feel, with a friendly audience who were clearly aware that they were witnessing quality in real time jumping about and loving every minute of it.
Plenty of tracks from the smash-hit last album, Remedy, were on show, as were most of the new Rooty tracks, Breakaway, Get Me Off, Romeo and Just 1 Kiss being particularly impressive live. The Jaxx’s genre-smashing beats offered us breakbeat, two step and hard house in swift rotation, the dancers resplendent in everything from feathers to swimming costumes showing how it should all be done.
The tube ride home began at Brixton Station, which had been covered in the mildly disconcerting simian image that symbolises Rooty. By the evidence displayed at the Academy tonight, one would have difficulty believing Rooty could be anything other than a summer soaraway success. These Brixton boys really are on the march; catch them at a festival over the summer if you can.