Live Music + Gig Reviews

Air @ Royal Albert Hall, London

19 September 2001



The trouble with instrumental bands is that so often one is left with very little to look at in gigs. Air, erstwhile an instrumental band, have recently been collaborating with vocalists such as Beck and Jason Falkner on their new album 10,000Hz Legend, therefore an instrumental band they are no longer, it seems. A gig at the Royal Albert Hall was to be something worth watching as well as listening to, we thought.

Air were on this evening supported by a guitarist who might have been called Sebastian. He and his accomplice on stage took just two ‘songs’ to get much of the back rows crying with laughter as they (seemingly unwittingly) created noises which were more reminiscent of the bovine than the divine; that is to say they were truly horrendous. Most people were still at the bar, making messes with the Albert Hall’s pristine white tablecloths and stubbing out fags on the seats – decorous this lot were not.

We returned from the bar to find that – thankfully – the guitarist and friend had left and it wasn’t much longer before Air turned up. They played most of 10,000Hz Legend and a few older tracks, including an inexplicably downbeat Sexy Boy which might have been better called Sleepy Boy considering the lack of energy with which it was offered. The lights swivelled and swayed, making the standing audience in the pit look like they were moving, but they of course weren’t. Elsewhere people shuffled and wandered around. Someone nearby remarked that just putting the album on very loud on a decent stereo would have been more enjoyable, for at least you could do something else at the same time.

The music is of course mighty fine. Much of it brings to mind Pink Floyd, circa The Division Bell, in terms of beat and uses for vocoders, vocal harmonies and synths. Even with Falkner turning up to sing his bit, however, there was really very little to look at and, with such music, there was consequently little to hold the interest of the audience. All of which was somewhat surprising for a band as well established as Air; you’d have thought they’d know what to do to get an audience into their music. Probably they still suffer from being an instrumental band, guest vocalists and vocoders notwithstanding.

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