Live Music + Gig Reviews

Air @ Forum, London

16 March 2007



Air duo Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin cut dashing silhouettes as they strode on to the stage. Dressed head to toe in white, including some eye-poppingly tight jeans, they oozed French nonchalance.

Looking like two luminous stick figures in amongst a sea of black equipment which included Moog synthezisers, a Korg MSZO, a Wurlitzer and aVocoder, they bashfully greeted the crowd, while the audience’s mobile phone screens glowed like fire flies flickering in the darkness just beyond the footlights.

But the anticipation of capturing this enigmatic duo on camera waned quickly due to the fact that the first five songs were so utterly dull. Even if each involved a guitar change, it felt like these Frenchmen were just shrugging the crowd off and going through the motions.

The choice of openers was distinctly lacklustre and Air seemed more than just a little aloof and disinterested in the proceedings which began to be reflected in the audience’s attention span.

Look for Air in your local record store and you will find them filed under ambient chill out and for much of the gig the packed out Forum was hardly rapt and people casually chatted amongst themselves much as they would had Air been playing on the stereo in their lounge. In fact so at home did people feel, and so insidious was Air’s soporific sounds, that one guy in front of me dozed off and ended up keeling over into the aisle, and I too found myself yawning and craving my duvet by the end of the 90 minute set.

It took this inimitable duo a while to move away from their more docile repertoire and give the crowd the Moon Safari hits that essentially made them the second best French musical export since Serge Gainsbourg. Moon Safari had bite, verve and energy and the pair suddenly looked alive, toe tapping and smiling as they reincarnated these riffs, rather than simply on auto pilot.

Cherry Blossom Girl, off the 2004 album Talkie Walkie, was also another people pleaser, but it was Safari’s eerie Talisman, the unforgettable refrain of Sexy Boy, and the electronic magnificence of Kelly Watch the Stars that really pulled Air and the audience out of their catatonia.

I have never been to another gig that sapped my life force as much as this Friday night at the Forum with these pioneers of electronica. It was as if all the air had been sucked out of the room, reducing the excited punters to a weary post-work crowd.

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