Sub Focus

O2 Academy, Bristol on Wed 16th Oct 2013

I can see from the queue that it must be a sold out show and suddenly the fact that I'm wearing shorts in October doesn't seem so ridiculous. The O2 Academy in Bristol is a sweat box at the best of times and tonight packed room will be no exception.

I get in and head upstairs thinking that it will be quicker to get to the bar. Big mistake, the staff serve the drinks with the gusto of a snail after a bong. Finally with a drink in hand and my friends in tow I go to check out the scene. It's congested already and a massive cross section of society and ages. Call me closed minded but I'm totally surprised by how many people I see in their fifties. I'm impressed and resolve to ditch the pipe and slippers until my seventieth at least.

Marching around the whole auditorium I realise that to see and dance at the same time is virtually impossible. This leaves me mildly annoyed. All the front rows of the balconies have filled up already and it is plainly evident that the dance floor will allow for bouncing up and down only in an exceedingly claustrophobic environment. Surely these artists made their dance music to be danced to? Have they not noticed that the venues are too crowded to move and do they even care?

Pushing these thoughts aside I consider what I'm here for tonight and that's the tour off the back of the anthemic 'Torus' album. Sub Focus, the alias of Nick Douwma has become a well rounded artist indeed, albeit a little softer around the edges perhaps due to higher levels of production he achieved on the latest offering. The variety of styles and sounds under his belt has certainly increased even more throwing dubstep and uplifting happy hardcore-esque numbers into the mix too. His brilliant and long awaited d├ębut 'Let The Story Begin' took no prisoners with high octane rhythms and energetic melodies but 'Torus' has certainly captured the hearts of a wider audience and greater critical acclaim.

As Douwma takes to the stage the audience erupts with excitement at the first sound and his performance screens spring into life. I've heard so much about these three specially made circular LED lights screens that are placed one in front, one behind and one around him allowing not only lighting but optical effects of perspective. I quickly realise that where I am stood is a fairly bad place to appreciate these screens so I spend the opening song squeezing my way to a better position. I arrive just in time for 'Rock It' an earlier classic and realise that the punters are singing the notes to the melodies. The lighting effects are impressive and it looks like Douwma is stood in a tunnel of light, a rather grand image for our composer.

Sub Focus rattles through the hits and the crowd sings in unison like some giant karaoke party. 'Out of the Blue' and 'Endorphins' are just the tip of the iceberg. Sub Focus has an uncanny ability to mix soulful vocals with perfect sound-scapes that switch from uplifting to dark in a single song. I smile to think that Sub Focus is know as a drum & bass producer and yet his biggest hit has been 'Endorphins' which is a far cry from that style.

It's getting hotter and hotter here, a girl is removed as she faints and the security at the front are pouring water into people's mouths. As the evening progresses an aggressive circle of moshers begins and ultimately ends in anger with someone getting a fist in the face. An interesting end to and interesting evening. The highlight for me is a less obvious choice perhaps 'Turn Back Time' as it perhaps the epitome of Sub Focus's bi-polar style and for me sums up his talent at exploring different aspects of music in one song. From the uplifting hooks he throws the tune into a hard minimalist techno and the kick drum and bass are turned up a notch more than on the album making it seem even harder and more hostile. A genius piece of juxtaposition in one song. If the third album is another four years off then we still have a while to see the next chapter in what will surely be an epic career for Sub Focus.

article by: Richard Potter

published: 18/10/2013 11:47


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