Live Music + Gig Reviews

Neon Neon @ KOKO, London

29 October 2008

KOKO seemed full to bursting with a strange mix of fans eagerly awaiting the arrival of Neon Neon.

There were obvious fans of Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys, those with a love of an ’80s electro synth, with or without the appreciation of its tongue in cheekness, and those who had probably just heard these strange little tunes on the radio.

Everyone was united when the voice of the ghost of John L DeLorean echoed around the grand palatial venue as two girly ravers flayed their limbs around, making it clear that this was going to be more than a collection of songs – but a real show, maybe even a ‘concept’ show to mirror the concept album, based on the life and times of DeLorean and his ill-fated car.

The synths started. Boom Bip and his very tight trousers set the scene before Gruff entered the stage, looking like some kind of timeshare selling younger brother of David Bellamy – beautiful! His rambling Welsh monotone chat was the complete antithesis of the ’80s revival surrounding him, and it wasn’t always clear what he was saying, but it reaffirmed that this was a special partnership, breaking boundaries and making two worlds collide.

When he sang, Gruff’s voice was sweet, soft and wonderful. He sang seemingly without effort or facial expression, but fans of SFA will be used to his understated performances – quite apart from his many dog suits, helmets and stage props of course. And his quirkiness was very much evident, as he held up placards instructing the audience to applause or with the simple message of Oh!!! Cate Le Bon was also on top form, singing backing on many of the songs and getting a bit more noticed for her part in I Lust You. It was shame the rising star wasn’t a bit more in the spotlight during the night, sometimes choosing to stand almost off stage while she sang.

It seemed a little odd that all of Gruff, Cate and Boom’s best known tracks were performed first, but all became clear when none other than Mr Har Mar Superstar joined the band for Trick For Treat, his wispy hair falling from his balding head, his ample gut poking through his retro lemon disco poncho and his golden Studio 54 wrist bands catching in the reflection of the giant glitter ball. He can always put on a good show and it was a joy to see him prance around, attempt some break dancing and get the crowd going, even if it meant Gruff sheepishly crept to the back of the stage.

Next it was time for the stage to be filled with 11 performers. Yo Majesty! brought their slice of hip hop to the show for Sweat Shop and it was a pleasing addition, although it was unclear how much of the vocal was live and how much was backing track.

Koko loved it, but I couldn’t help but feel there was a slight disconnection with the musicians on stage throughout the night, each one moving aside to let the other perform instead of joining them. At one point, Gruff was casually sat next to the bass drum to add his layer of singing while Har Mar and then Yo Majesty! took the limelight.

Despite this, it was a great, if not short, night, with highlights being Raquel and Gruff’s made up tale of DeLorean’s affair with film star Raquel Welch, Cate and Gruff’s I Lust You, Har Mar’s Trick For Treat and DeLorean’s on-going narration between songs – it’s nice to see he approved of the collaboration.

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More on Neon Neon
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Neon Neon @ KOKO, London
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