Live Music + Gig Reviews

Air @ Somerset House, London

9 July 2010



There has been a lot of talk recently about how this recession is going to lead to a tax on the air we breathe. So what happens when Air themselves visit the old Inland Revenue headquarters of Somerset House for a chinwag?

Not a great deal, as it turns out – but that shouldn’t be taken as an insult to the stylish music of the Gallic pair. Conditions are perfect for chill out with a lightly psychedelic edge, the courtyard basking in the aftermath of a swelteringly hot day, and the calming tones of Ólöf Arnalds sooth the heated and seated masses.

She sings gracefully, accompanied by a single guitarist, and while attempts to provoke the crowd into a singalong fall a little flat, this is more to do with the temperature – and perhaps the audience – than any lack of presence on her part. As with all Icelandic singers, it seems, a rendition of the day’s share prices would be deemed nothing less than ethereal in these tones, and the songs are nicely spun. Her second album appears on these shores in September.

Air themselves arrive with the minimum of fuss, and proceed to dispense their keyboard-fuelled vibes to an appreciative audience. They do this despite the hindrance of tight fitting white trousers – not many people could get away with those – but also with a slight air of detachment, the feeling that for all the blissful light display and occasional bursts of light funk, we could be listening to this music in a massive outdoor bar.

Neither move much, but then elegance is a key part of their music. It exists throughout, with Jean-Benoît Dunckel playing two, maybe three keyboards per song while somehow managing to face the audience. Nicolas Bodin is a little more animated as he provides the more rhythmic elements, but there are no guest vocalists – and no All I Need, an opportunity missed. Old favourites Kelly Watch The Stars and Sexy Boy are complemented by some intriguing newbies, however, with Tropical Disease and Missing The Light Of The Day scoring particularly highly, the latter replete with Philip Glass-style arpeggios.

Diverting rather than captivating, Air have spread good vibes and mellow lighting among this particular London courtyard, which is largely grateful – though the seagulls circling overhead remain untroubled.

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More on Air
Air – Le Voyage Dans La Lune
Air @ Somerset House, London
Air – Love 2
Air @ Forum, London
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