In a trendy Covent Garden trainer shop, a couple of weeks ago, one of the sales assistants could be heard complaining about the state of music today, moaning that it’s all been done before. However, he paused for a second before adding “I like the Audio Bullys though, they’re doing something different”.
Arguably they’re not. Their sound is pure Specials meets the The Streets but with a few loops, strings, brass and heavy dub beats here and there it all sounds remarkably fresh. Word on the street is they’re the best live act around at the moment – but would their sold-out show at London’s Scala live up to this claim?
Frontman Simon Franks didn’t exactly get off to a great start by greeting the crowd with “Hello Fabric”, referring of course to the venue of their previous London gig. Luckily the audience had a sense of humour and the error was quickly forgiven as soon as Tom Dinsdale’s dub beats and Chemicals-style loops and Franks’ geezer-esque vocals kicked in.
This definitely wasn’t a gig to be stood at the back with folded arms. The uplifting beats of tunes like The Things and Way Too Long don’t fail to entice dancing, or at the least foot-tapping from the dance-shy. The Scala, which is designed for clubbing rather than gigging, provided the perfect arena for the duo’s high energy set and the midweek crowd were up for having it large, dancing with as much enthusiasm to album tracks and new material as they demonstrated for the singles.
Dance acts normally have a real challenge in producing an engaging live show but Tom Dinsdale and Simon Franks both carried a natural presence and charisma. Franks in particular looked effortlessly chilled despite the rampant heat. Plus, the gig was as stimulating visually as it was aurally with a massive video projection forming the backdrop of the stage as well as a busy light show. Riot scenes playing on the screen alluded further to the Specials comparisons.
Part of the band’s charm lies in the fact that they would look equally at home in the crowd as they do on stage. Their passion for music shines through in both their performance and in the use of samples in their début album Ego War. They also demonstrated that they are not just a singles band as it was difficult to pick a duff track from their set.
Judging by the post-gig banter in the ladies’ toilets the only criticism that could be attributed to the gig was that their set, at around 50 minutes, was too short. Still, by keeping things brief the Audio Bullys left their crowd wanting more and we certainly hope to hear a lot more from this promising young British dance act in the future.