Live Music + Gig Reviews

Air @ Brixton Academy, London

18 February 2004



Pardon my French, mes amis, but shurely Air‘s latest outing – Talkie Walkie – represents something of a volte-face after the speaking-in-Prog-tongues escapade that was 10,000Hz Legend, n’est ce-pas?

I, for one, expected similar forays into brain salad surgery and more tales of topographic ocean for future Air productions. There was a nagging feeling that 10,000Hz revealed the true colours of the band. Perhaps the futuristic drift of Moon Safari had been unleashed as some kind of sop, a inspired fling at netting some financial credit that, once pocketed, would give Messrs Dunckel and Godin licence to rattle the Palaeolithic skeletons of Progressive Rock in their muse closets.

Well, if this conspiracy theory has any remote legitimacy, their dastardly plan failed thanks to the pesky kids just not buying it. But to everyone’s joy, Talkie Walkie ushers in a return to form, and just might (whisper it quietly) be even better than Moon Safari, once its space-dust sensuality has settled on our collective consciousness.

And so, in time-honoured fashion, the band hit the road just to prove how good it really is, shift a few copies of the record, and briefly improve the quality of life for all assembled. Well, the album might be Talkie-Walkie, but the band ain’t. It’s five songs in before we get the first merci beaucoup, but in truth, it’s unlikely that anyone really cares. Somewhat unusually for The Academy, the sound finds room to breathe while also managing to drown out the ever-chattering classes that the venue seems to attract. The first five tunes underline Air’s ability to add to the soundtrack of lives lived in expectation of flux, the anticipation of travel – an evocation perhaps of the writings of Alain De Botton.

As is appropriate for a band on top of their game, much of the evening was given over to the Air-ing of the new album, though – predictably – best shouts went out to Moon Safari’s Sexy Boy and La Femme D’Argent. Shame though, as the easy familiarity of those tracks was more than outweighed by the serene and seductive atmospherics of Alpha Beta Gaga, Surfing On A Rocket and Cherry Blossom Girl.

After seeing them drowned out by the rain in Finsbury Park, and “challenge” their audience by playing their difficult second album in its entirety at Shepherds Bush, this is Air at their live best. The band hasn’t completely given up on inscrutability though. 10,000Hz’s People In The City mystifies some of the arrivistes present, though the Emperor Ming capes aren’t taken out of their sci-fi mothballs for the performance.

It ain’t over either in case you missed out. Air return with their Kubrick-Lounge to the Academy shortly, so gets the tickets while them’s hot. Any complaints? Yep, methinks the 80-minute show was just a little too short for a band with Air’s back catalogue. Otherwise, it’s a grande “Oui!” from Brixton.

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Air @ Forum, London
Summer Sundae Weekender 2004, Day 2 @ De Montfort Hall, Leicester