Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Chemical Brothers + Justice @ KOKO, London

25 October 2007

Adventures in electro, week 43…

Forty-something rave casualties aided by walking sticks are waddling around KOKO. Tree huggers are dancing to Zane Lowe. You can’t help but smile about the reason to be in town.

Tonight is safe bet night on the Electric Proms itinerary. Paul McCartney is going to be wheeling out the classics up the road at the Roundhouse. Like he did at the Electric Ballroom a few months ago. Like he does every so often.

The prospect of The Chemical Brothers and Justice, whilst welcome, didn’t strike as a particularly blunt oeuvre of innovation either. Would they collaborate and conjure the new musical experience our tickets promised? Emphatically, no. Still you’d be hard pressed to find a reason to prevent one heck of a matrimony taking place in a club on a drizzly October Thursday.

Justice headlined here a month ago and seem to have finally found a little more balance to their prozaic stage personas. In short this translates to “turn it up and don’t stop wearing the leather.” They still hover over their equipment with the urgency of altar boys, but there is a swagger of a pout looking out from behind the darkness, as each strobe accompanying the rumbles and grazes shooting out of the PA illuminates Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Auge’s expressionless faces.

They tear through Genesis, Phantom and DANCE before nodding to the headliners with Hey Boy, Hey Girl on the lead into Let There Be Light. The bulk of + is aired with the drilling house remix of Phantom and We Are Your Friends chucked in to wrap things up. It’s compact, safe and solid, but the loudest and best form we’ve seen them on all year.

An hour (yes an hour) later, No Path to Follow drones The Chemical Brothers’ set to life. Of the guests they could have invited (Noel Gallagher, Midlake, Klaxons) we get rent-a-guest Tim Burgess and longtime collaborator Beth Orton. Both go down with the appeal of Gordon Brown walking onstage with glo sticks and a visor hat.

The problem: this ‘new experience’ comes saddled at the end of a belting set, when most of the crowd are craving for an hour more of what The Chemicals do best. Burgess’s vocals on The Boxer were lost in the predictable muddiness KOKO bogs guitar bands with. Orton was meek, hiding behind her guitar and drowned out by audience chatter for the more down tempo Where Do I Begin.

Mere drops of blemish on an otherwise tremendous showing from Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons, who have carted their heady Glastonbury experience into KOKO vis a vis Out of Control, Star Guitar, Under The Influence and Saturate.

With the safety of the last train we shunted off into the night, ready for whatever week 44 decided to offer…

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