Originality is surely the greatest deficiency inmusic today, and Asian Dub Foundation are here tolet Earls Court know where it’s all been hiding.
In layman’s terms, picture the Panjabi MC jamming withthe late great Rage Against The Machine. The hard-linepolitical message is conveyed though a mix of Bhangrabeats, dub bass and infectious guitar licks, creatinga wall of noise that the indie audience isn’t quitesure what to do with.
Blowback is a perfect example of their sound,dedicated with seething fury to “Bush and his fellowterrorists” with a dub groove so low that one’s teethstart to rattle. Fortress Europe tells the “other sideof the asylum seeker’s story” with the audience evenmanaging to shout along during the rousing chant: “Keep bangin’ on the walls of Fortress Europe!”
Vocalists leave the stage for more instrumentalacrobatics, while drummer and percussionists havetheir work cut out, to produce a blizzard of intricaterhythms. Returning in rebel headscarves for Enemy OfThe Enemy, the PA hums with blasts of swirlingchaos. The scratching, eerie sound climaxes with alead guitar lick that drops into a drum and bass trackso wild, it would give Roni Size a hernia.
Closing with War Cry, dedicated to all the world’santi-Capitalists, Asian Dub Foundation then utter the lastline I ever thought possible to hear at a Radioheadconcert: “Where all the jungle-ists at?” Anddespite their utter confusion and somewhat bemusementat the novel group before them, the majority of the crowd seems to be won over by War Cry, with random outburstsof jumping and dancing throughout.
After half an hour of music through the sound systemthat can only be described as the soundtrack to anightmare, the sultans of the strange take to thestage in dim lights, performing a weird, techno-fringednumber, The Gloaming, before tearing into the brillianttitle track form their latest album. Hail to The Thiefhas elements of Muse and The Sex Pistols, and shows ThomYorke at his most cheesed off for years.
The funky, grinding riff of Myxomatosis proves a favoritethroughout the sold-out venue, with a following jamthat would have been right at home on a Beck album oreven better on a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack. But Thom and his boys are way too “anti-cool” for that, eh?
Bizare and tuneless piano and techno numbers populatethe next 20 minutes, while the band unleash their ownbrand of “originality” on the audience. You can’t helpbut feel that, amongst the irony of the vocal which runssomething like, “I’ll take the rats and the children… C’mon kids… C’mon kids,” that it is in fact Mr Yorke and his not so merry men who have “stolen” the children and their taste budswith the experimentation of recent albums.
Still, however hypnotic the powers of his pipe, there is nosimply no denying that Fake Plastic Trees, Just, andParanoid Android hark back to a time when this bandwere quite simply, untouchable. If Paranoid Android isthe best song they have ever written, then tonight iswithout a doubt the finest performance of it, searingfrom jangly intro to the insanely manic break withunsurpassed excellence.
With encore numbers including a clap-along version ofKid A, Knives out, and a superb rendition of KarmaPolice, one thing is clear: Radiohead can writeamazing songs and rock them like no one else when thematerial is right. However, if they keep producingtheir recently adopted blend of Fake Plastic electronica, then they run the risk of theirpopularity Creep-ing away.