Warchild presents Leftfield, and friends

O2 Brixton Academy, London on Sat 21st Apr 2012

Leftfield and Brixton Academy go together like apple crumble and custard, or peanut butter and coleslaw (no? just me then?), so when the dance music legends announce another Academy date, for me it's a bit of a no-brainer. Their 1996 and 2010 gigs at the Brixton venue are two of my favourite gigs ever, and this time they're bringing friends Jemmy, Tempo Tantrum, James Zabiela, Laurent Garnier, M.A.N.D.Y. plus a live performance from Booka Shade. A few days before the gig, we're disappointed to learn that Laurent Garnier is unable to make it due to illness, but delighted that James Breakage is stepping in (he supported the 2010 date at Brixton).

Proceeds from tonight's gig are going to Warchild, a charity helping children whose lives are torn apart by war. Their work helps ensure that many children have medical attention, a safe haven, and wear school uniforms rather than military ones. I don't notice any charity representatives around the venue as we make our way in and buy some pretty tasteless overprice lager.

The evening seems pretty well structured with the friends of Leftfield taking turns to help our evening twist and turn through complementary electronic music genres. Breakage's haunting remix of Clare Maguire's 'Ain't Nobody' gets an airing and his break-beat, drum and bass and dubstep set gets the fattening crowd moving early on.

For me, the Booka Shade set is a perfect warm-up for Leftfield. I didn't recognise them from the name when the line-up was announced, but as they play through their incredible live set, many of the tunes stick out and seem familiar from a long time ago¬Ö 'Mandarine Girl' is utterly spell binding and compliments the crystal clear samples through the rig. Their live set is energetic and uplifting and builds the crowd to a crescendo.

The Leftfield deafening bass cannon siren signals the beginning of their set. It's like hells toilet flushing and it goes right through you. 'Song of Life', the perfect fusion of relentless drums and a lifting old school operatic trippy vocal. The excitement spills over and the crowd move in unison, an excited writhing mass.

The Turbosound Flashline sound system used for the gig tonight is beautifully clear throughout 'Black Flute'. In fact it's amazingly crisp throughout the evening and for me it's as good and personal as wearing decent headphones with complete frequency separation. The High-hat sounds on 'Black Flute' are as crisp and close as my own nose breaking and the punchy bass flexes my rib cage and awakens internal organs. The live version wibbles away from the familiar bass line of the Leftism album rendition and slows to a very plodding pedestrian close. The reducing pace allows those on stage to get a bit of a breather as Jess Mills takes to the stage for 'Original'. The 1995 version was voiced by Toni Halliday and was a mainstay of the Leftfield set. Mills in her silver-spangled catsuit has grabbed the attention of a good deal of the crowd and though her voice falters on occasion, it's pretty special.

The highlight of the set is Neil taking to the Congas for Afrika-Shox and being joined on stage by the legendary Afrika Bambaataa! The visuals from DeerStalker fizzle into electrical currents and up the digital backdrops as the crowd join in the chants of 'Let's Get Electrified'.

The Leftfield set comes to a close with a 'Phat Planet'. It's a greatly extended version but even so it's a shame when it ends and Neil and co thank us for their support.

Following the sets of Leftfield and Booka Shade is a pretty thankless task but as the crowd thin out, we take advantage of the thinning crowd to get more space on the dancefloor to take on fatigue with the help of M.A.N.D.Y . Their minimal techno sounds remind me of Dave Clarke and we're there until the lights come on at the end.

What an amazing night. Some new material would be nice, but when you have a back catalogue and friends like these, it's not strictly necessary. It's a great reason for another big tour though.

article by: James Tayler

published: 26/04/2012 08:35

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