Run DMC once said that a DJ could be a band. But the dilemma remains is how do you turn vinyl-juggling into a watchable as well as listenable live experience? Well-respected DJ Holmes has obviously gambled on taking Run’s word at face value, but just to make sure, he found himself some ye-olde fashioned musician-type’s to keep him company. Belfast-born Holmes is arguably still known chiefly for his well-received soundtrack to Steven Soderburgh’s Out Of Sight – a work that Soderburgh was so enamoured of that he hired Holmes to score his rat pack-less Oceans Eleven.
Holmes aficionados will be just as familiar with 2001’s ‘soundtrack-looking-for-a-movie’ album Bow Down To The Exit Sign and the infectious stylophone-augmented melody of its single 69 Police. Imaginatively compiled compilations such as last year’s Come Get It, I Got It have added further kudos to the Holmes legend. But with a short stint at London’s Jazz Café to follow this special Meltdown performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, David Holmes is wearing his band leader’s hat at this present time, and giving a public airing to the tracks laid down on his current long-player with his muso chums The Free Association.
Now the keener-eyed among you may see that word ‘Free’ and draw an easy association with Jazz, and this band’s music is clearly a cool nod in that direction. However, though the band is keen to demonstrate its ‘chops’, the mix is dominated by booming drums out on top giving the sound an ill-fitting Led Zeppelin-esque thud.
The lack of separation does the band no favours, though singer Petra Jean Phillipson’s Beth Gibbons-style blues vocals fight to compete with the cacophony, gamely on tunes like Whistling Down The Wind that she instils with some Peggy Lee ‘Lady-is-a-tramp’ style sass. Phillipson shares the stage with ex-Beta Band MC Sean Reveron who although claiming I Don’t Rhyme No ‘Mo proceeds to contradict himself. But the murk of the sound puts paid to the experience of delights such as the wah-wah guitar, and often Reveron sounds like he’s fighting to be heard, and all subtleties and nuances are lost.
That said, the Holmes faithful are out in force, and are much appreciative, even eating up MC Sean Reveron’s seemingly spur-of-the-moment declaration that the Oval Office’s current incumbent is an asshole – a point possibly not that revelatory to the converted throng. Settled behind twin decks, Holmes, cigarette permanently jutting out of his mouth, looks on bemused throughout, cutting and fading to his heart’s content, no doubt noting again his self-confessed Brian Eno-like status as a ‘non-musician’ in his own band. The only audible evidence of his input is the intro cut-up to each song though its just possible to make out Jean-Jacques Perry’s moogfest Eva poking out of the mix here and there. He, and his music, deserved better tonight.