“There is something terribly masturbatory about standing on stage at a venue called an arena with a loud electric guitar.” Moby is preparing us for a self-indulgent 90 second rock guitar solo, but I think he’s also trying to tell us, in his funny little cerebral way, that Wembley Arena is a load of old wank.
Given the opportunity of seeing Moby at Wembley or another place, I inexplicably opted for Wembley Arena. Upon arrival I realise my mistake. Outside the signs clearly state Standing This Way -> but, after following them, a rude security guard tells us that standing is That Way <. When we eventually get to the right entrance we encounter an even ruder security guard who won’t let a group of young and excited foreigners keep their ticket stubs as souvenirs. Then, before we get into the Arena proper, we are searched. This I don’t mind as I don’t want to be in the mosh pit with an axe-wielding maniac and I suppose drugs are illegal. But what they seemed bent on preventing getting into the auditorium is water! We are told by the rudest security guard of all that this is not to prevent us using containers as missiles, but simply because it is illegal to consume any food or drink in the standing area! How can the consumption of water be illegal anywhere? The fact that once inside we stand next to a chap who is doing a roaring trade dealing blow makes you wonder that, in their effort to eradicate the evils of food and drink from the floor, how many guns, knives and drugs have made it through.
It doesn’t take long to forget the fact that we are in a big and badly run shed, bombarded as we are by Moby’s arsenal of diverse material. As an artist who records as a one man band using samples and playing a multitude of instruments, Moby transfers his tunes to a live show brilliantly. He has delegated duties to a team comprising two Americans – Scott Vazetto “the best drummer in the world” and Creda, an ’80s throwback of a bassist wearing a strange Bananarama type outfit. They are joined by a selection of “local talent”. At times it looks as if Moby has left himself nothing to do and is a little lost. Yet when he is sprinting around the stage, often in a strange backward skipping gait, flitting from guitar to keyboard to drums, he has a much greater impact on stage than his diminutive figure would suggest.
The set list contains, as you would expect, a good selection from Play, with two versions of Porcelain. Unfortunately Moby’s voice, whilst brilliant when he is attacking the microphone, is shown up as rather ordinary when he attempts the second version with minimal acoustic support in duet with the beautiful vocals of Brixton-based session singer Diane Charlemagne. Other tracks from Play include Bodyrock, Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad and “a dirty sexy little song” that is Honey. He raids sections of his back catalogue successfully, transporting us back to the early ’90s by dedicating three tracks headed by Everything is Wrong to the spirit of being in a field, warehouse or club listening to house, surrounded by beautiful strangers.
Despite a willingness to indiscriminately prostitute his tunes by licensing each and every track from Play to advertisers or film makers throughout the world, a move that has netted the little bald chap millions, he obviously loves his creative offerings and is very proud of them. I am sure that with his boundless enthusiasm I would have wholeheartedly loved this performance had we been somewhere else other than Wembley Arena.