Live Music + Gig Reviews

Coldcut @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

25 February 2006



Four guys with laptops stand on a stage manipulating QWERTY keyboards. I know what you’re thinking. But think again. Coldcut may not have the mythic lure of motorik maestros Kraftwerk, but that doesn’t mean they can’t put on a show.

True, Coldcut’s Jonathan More and Matt Black are unlikely to be jaggering about at the front of the stage whipping up a lascivious storm. But as we’re in the Coldcut territory of London Town, plenty of fellow ninjas have dropped in to help promote current product, Sound Mirrors, and the audience / performer interface is taken care of.

Back in the dance-dominated ’90’s, the hardest thing for the DJs and music-makers of the era was how to translate their home-brewed digital extravaganzas into the ever-lucrative concert halls and arenas.

Long in the development stage, More and Black now have their patented VJAMM software to synchronise with a setlist that also takes time out to revisit Coldcut hits ‘n’ misses. But this, to remix Coldcut parlance, isn’t just music.

Over a DJ set by Casual Records’ Ross (Da Boss) Allen that surfed a Ninja Tune-like beats-sans-frontieres, the assembled were invited to send in their own cellphone recordings of their adventures of the evening. A nice idea, but even someone with Hollywood-style charisma, like myself, found teasing visual entertainment from a 15-minute queue at the bar a tough call.

Yes, you can claim lack of imagination, but even one of those guest MCs – Juice Aleem, I fink – clearly found inspiration hard to arrive at. On re-alerting us to the facility, said MC signed off with “…you can even film yourself in the toilets…”…before adding “…with whatever you do in there…”. If anybody took any notice, Coldcut’s MyCCTV is going to be a particular download fave with pervs and policemen – those two social groups being mutually exclusive of course.

Once in full gear though, Coldcut VJAMMed the AV system with a skittering welter of fatback rhythms, breeze block beats, pilfered-jazz breaks, and odd excursions on ambient versions like the Louisiana-gone-to-Chicago treatment of Joe South‘s Walk A Mile In My Shoes. Robert Owens, once of Fingers Inc. drops in to repeat his silk-tonsilled performance on Sound Mirrors.

The principal hook of the Coldcut live experience though is the VJAMM-generated visuals, with purloined visuals chiming in time with their audio counterparts. Another re-cut and revisited Beats ‘n’ Pieces spawns a variety of oddball mix ‘n’ matching, like a stoned Keith Richards sharing screen-space with a tap-dancing Bruce Forsyth.

Re: Evolution, anthem to Coldcut’s Guilty Party bid for the 2004 Election isn’t forgotten either. Once the images of a gun-toting Reverend Blair have been fully ingested, there can be little doubt that ‘the lunatics’ have indeed ‘taken over the asylum’.

With appearances from Roots Manuva, Mpho Skeef, John Matthias to accommodate there are inevitable losses of tempo – peculiarly beginning the show with the downbeat A Whistle And A Prayer. But old hands that they are, lows are quickly displaced by highs.

Perhaps an unforeseen downside to Coldcut playing rock venues is that what amounted to a DJ set – with frills, I grant you – seemed far too short. My trusty old timepiece made it less than an hour and a half. If they’ve still got rhythms they haven’t used yet, then can we have some more please?

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More on Coldcut
Spotlight: 20 Years Of Ninja Tune
Coldcut @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
Coldcut – Sound Mirrors