Live Music + Gig Reviews

MNDR @ XOYO, London

24 November 2010

When Mark Ronson turned up again earlier this year with the urgent immediacy of comeback single Bang Bang Bang, the girl singing its refrain alongside Q-Tip‘s leisurely rapping seemed plucked from obscurity. It turns out Amanda Warner had plans. With musical partner Peter Wade, their project MNDR is planning to release its debut album early next year. Showcasing some of its songs, they took up residency in the intimate ground floor space at Hoxton’s XOYO.

The aesthetics of MNDR (pronounced letter by letter) remain Warner’s domain, with Wade off stage and out of sight. Who knows what he’s contributing, but essentially in a live setting, you’re watching Warner on stage with a few keyboards and techno-gadgets for company. And her aesthetics remain dominated by those humungous white glasses that stood out in the Mark Ronson video.

Unfortunately the music isn’t quite as attention-grabbing as her face furniture. Synth-heavy, the hollow, tinny sound isn’t helped tonight by a soundsystem that doesn’t carry the music well. Beginning with a track that borrows back the melody she leant to Bang Bang Bang, it suffers in comparison to one of the tracks of the year. The tempo stays solidly upbeat through most of the set, but while Sparrow and Fade To Black stand out as better moments, in general the songs feel hollow and cold and don’t make much impact.

There had been hope that Warner would be some kind of intoxicating personality, a pop star in waiting. But as a frontwoman she seems strangely not into it tonight. It could be nerves, but she doesn’t seem that excited and just doesn’t seem able to connect with the audience, who are less responsive and energetic than the projected wall graphics that go off behind her. Possibly aware that it’s not going quite right, she picks up towards the end. There’s a moment where she choreographs audience involvement with the intensity of those wall graphics, but it’s all a little contrived and flat.

It’s possible that a lack of familiarity with the material hinders enjoyment. Hopefully it will all have more charm on the album’s eventual release but a shortage of immediate hooks leaves this electro-pop act lagging behind in a crowded market.

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MNDR @ XOYO, London