For a double act who have just emphatically announced their return to the club with new album More!, KOKO was just the right place for Booka Shade to turn their plans into reality.
Previous album The Sun And The Neon Light was undeniably impressive, but though it sported impressive house beats it appeared to be moving the group towards a cinematic approach. Here they returned to their roots in some style, and having built a reputation for their energetic live act, a rare phenomenon among acts who list house music as their first discipline, the air was thick with anticipation as DJ Natalie Coleman worked the crowd.
As they entered to a rapturous welcome, lights danced across the stage towards an ominously large shape on the screen at the back. Like the top of a Van Der Graaf generator, it gave out great emissions of light and heat. Soon it was the band doing just that, with Arno Kammermeier laying down an energetic percussion track to aid the heavy duty kick drum, and Walter Merziger tweaking the synthesizers and effects to give occasionally piercing bursts of acidic noise.
Spectres of electro ancestors also hovered at the back of the stage, and at times it felt like we were listening to New Order channelled through Hardfloor‘s mixing desk. That is in no way an insult, mind, more a testament to the raw power the music was channelling into our minds and our feet, which responded accordingly. Dark synth lines forced their way through the textures to the front, but when they were relaxed there were some wonderful washes of sound, like stepping into a wind tunnel for a brief moment.
All the heavyweights were present and correct – the broadly cinematic Charlotte, a punchy version of In White Rooms and a dark and brooding Vertigo. From the new record we were treated to the glacial cool of Regenerate and the superb Bad Love, though despite Merziger’s best efforts the absence of guest vocalist Chelonis R Jones left a void at this point. That said, everyone was too busy dancing to care too much.
The duo kept us guessing nicely with a couple of false endings, walking off stage twice only to return with substantial encore passages. They had delivered a cross between an intense DJ set and a full on gig with percussion aplenty, indulging us now and then in some floor scraping bass as things threatened to turn feisty. It was a fine show, undoubtedly pitched for the people – who were naturally delighted.