Cardiff University - Friday 19 April 1996
YOU don't need a PHD in intelligent techno to explain Leftfield's success.
You see, "Leftism", one of the few records in 1995 to sell by the bucketload and be lauded by the music press, has hooks large enough to hang a coat on. Leftfield were, in the words of far too many hacks, "the dance band it's okay for indie kids to like". Touching base with so many areas of the dance genre, "Leftism" was one of those albums which could be put on repeat play and you'd never tire from listening, and it's that sheer eclecticism which has made Leftfield's debut live performances so eagerly awaited.
To their credit, at least Leftfield project some semblance of being a live group. Despite the earnest protestations of the likes of Orbital, underworld et al, "live techno" has been at best an oxymoron, at worst an embarrassing PA. It would have been all too easy to have stuck Neil Barnes and Paul Daley up there with a couple of DATs and a naff slide show, and pressed the button marked "can't wait 'till it's over". Tonight, though, they actually look like they're enjoying themselves. Daley strokes his drum kit with expert timing. Adam Wren provides a live mixing feel and Nick Rapaccioli occasionally tweaks his silver box. And at the centre of it all, Barnes co-ordinates the multi-sonic sound experience and occasionally indulges in a bongo solo or two.
It was a brave move to launch the night with "Song Of Life", arguably their best composition. Owing more to the 1992 original than the version found on their album, the teasing intro still sends tingles right down to the base of your spine in anticipation of that fierce kick-in. "Black Flute" maintains the momentum and "Afro-Left", presented in its "Afro-Ride" version, has the audience fooled and fuelled by MC Cheshire Cat's natural scat chatta.
Like Underworld, Leftfield sprinkle their set with snatches of familiar melodies, always keeping the listener unsure as to the direction of the songs. Okay, so they somewhat surprisingly miss out "Release The Pressure" and the mighty fine "Space Shanty", but they more than compensate with a take on the neo-junglist "Storm 3000".
The set concludes with the cut'n'paste nostalgia trip, "Not Forgotten", confusing those introduced to the band via "Leftism", but delighting the rest of the crowd with its simple yet effective analogue riffs. The gig-like vibe is finally compounded when the whole band troops to centre stage to take their bows Bon Jovi style, with raised drumsticks and cod-rock poses. Hell, all that is needed now is for one of them to strip to the waist and toss a sweaty T-shirt into the crowd. Erm, like, cheers Neil.
Hang about, we haven't even mentioned progressive house yet...
review by Kieran Wyatt (nicked from 'Muzik', dated June 1996)