Live Music + Gig Reviews

Jon Hopkins @ Royal Festival Hall, London

19 September 2014

Jon Hopkins

Jon Hopkins

For one night only, London’s Royal Festival Hall has been transformed into the playground of a man who is a real force to be reckoned with. With two previous Mercury award nominations under his belt, Jon Hopkins is a man whose talents should not be underestimated. He is an electronic artist who is willing and able to produce a live performance of spectacular proportions, that provides a feast for senses and pushes the boundaries of how electronic music can be brought to the live venue.

When he takes to the stage against a blank backdrop, he does so in a matter-of-fact manner, like a man who means business. The backdrop behind him and his decks suddenly come alive as he introduces the opening beats to We Disappear. As the beats build on one another and the patterns become more complex, so too do the flashing shapes, until there is a rich cacophony of sound and images all coming at you in one magical flourish. It’s like watching a performance beamed in directly from an outer space of the future and is a masterclass in how technology has developed to such a level that it can affect your senses and your emotions.

But it is not all about big electronic theatrics, and Hopkins frequently takes to the piano to play edited renditions of his Monsters compositions. The richness of the piano and the strings, backed by the fantastic visual displays, makes for an intense experience. It also enhances the creative aspects of the set as it shows how diverse Hopkins’ talents are and how he is willing to take a chance and challenge the audience in what they expect an electronic artist to be like in the live setting. It is deeply mesmerising and brings a different shade to the feel of the evening.

But then the dynamics change again. Looking around you, it’s almost hard to believe that you are at the Royal Festival Hall. Where, only minutes ago, every person in the room had been seated, diligently watching the show, they’re now standing up dancing, surrendering to the heavy electronic beats of Open Eye Signal. The place has been completely transformed, and it feels as though you’re at the best dance club on earth rather than one of London’s most respected arts venues. As Open Eye Signal further develops into a melting pot of complex rhythms and euphoric electronic sounds, the atmosphere intensifies.

When Open Eye Signal draws to a close, it is met with the most electrifying response, and it takes a while for everything to settle down again. Yet, it is not long before everyone is up on their feet again, and people are crowding at the front, moving every bone in their body in time with the hypnotic and hallucinogenic rhythms of Collider. With the music video playing that follows a girl having a drug-induced experience at a warehouse rave, the hall is completely transformed again.

This is a clear example of how dance music has to be about more than just a set of decks. Hopkins has perfectly demonstrated a high quality and quite frankly stunning live set that is hard to put fully into words. It is a wholly awe-inspiring show that takes you from transient piano pieces through to pieces where the bass reverberates through your skull and leaves you dizzy. An utterly mesmerising experience.

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