Apologies first to anyone expecting a review of The Who‘s performance from the Roundhouse tonight to round off our BBC Electric Proms coverage. The powers that be wouldn’t let our man in. We could get all Catherine Tate about it, but we were too busy having fun down the road with Basement Jaxx to be bovvered.
As it turned out, we were lucky to witness Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton’s little party. We’d been primed for an 11pm start (from those powers that be), though the official festival brochure announced doors at 7:30pm. Erring on the side of the caution, we were vindicated when the Jaxx took to Koko’s stage at 10:15pm and immediately set the place alight. From the off, sizeable divas bounced around the stage, their considerable voices bounced off the walls and backing breakdancers bounced around the floor.
But how would the Brixton duo make “a genuine new music moment”, the stated aim of the Electric Proms? Basement Jaxx ordinarily parade guest star collaborators across their stages, and the new album Crazy Itch Radio has just been blasted all over the country during the duo’s support role for Robbie Williams‘ tour. In the event, such academic considerations mattered not a jot when just about every hand in the place was raised in the air from beginning to end, the big divas filling the place with sheer force of personality and gigantic soulful voices.
Stripped of visual toys, the Jaxx turned up with a gypsy band of horns and accordion, themselves and their guest vocalists and dancers. And they let rip, with even the toned down costumes on show proving colourful. Early on, a cheerleading diva went energetic for the hook-happy Do Your Thing, waving big green pompoms and collapsing into the splits in bacofoil to whoops and cheers. Later, a male dancer would appear in a flowing white robe with African flags for sleeves.
Established crowd pleasers like Red Alert were interspersed with new material – a number called On The Train featured a male soul singer playing an organ under moody mauve lighting.
Of the new material, current single Take Me Back To Your House proved the strongest and already is a singalong number, while Hey U – the wildest Balkan/beats fusion of Crazy Itch Radio, here co-vocalled by Buxton bounding about the stage as though on a pogo stick – could have run for half the evening and still would not have palled.
Suddenly it’s over after little more than an hour. A short, sharp burst of fun and colour that, whatever the concept behind it, completed the Electric Proms with brief gusto, leaving the audience wanting more. And while questions over the festival’s guiding concept went unanswered, the inaugural year’s programme had undeniably presented a superb diversity of acts, given value for money and all but assured the festival’s success in 2007.