London Brixton Academy - Saturday 15 June 1996
HELLO THERE! Glad you could make it! I mean, we were beginning to wonder...
Leftfield's all-conquering Liveism beast might have powered its way through every corner of the UK but, for a while at least, it seemed it wasn't going to make it back to base. They searched high and low for a London venue that hadn't been used before, one that the crowd wouldn't associate with umpteen previous nights out, but to no avail.
There was no avoiding it - they would have to ditch their elaborate ideas of pumping up the bass inside a derelict power station or fancy ex-government building and, like several thousand others, settle for Brixton Academy.
At this point, however, all similarities between dub-techno's greatest and most of the others who've tried it on in this place come to a sudden halt. It's 1.3Oam, the atmosphere is like high-voltage electricity tapped neat out of an overhead pylon, and the rock'n'rave revelation of '96 is about to unleash its unremitting load of percussive brute force, deep, melodic witchcraft, and already enormous ultra-volume in a fashion that is singularly phenomenal.
As the high-drama intro music fades away, Paul Daley bangs the drums, Neil Barnes and Nick Rapaccioli tweak the keyboards, and the show's opener, 'Song Of Life', quickens from an electro-reggae overture to a shuddering hunk of primal hard dance that has the capacity crowd inserting springs under its collective feet and reaching for the rafters. A bank of penetrating searchlights burn a path through the smoke, and the message pounding out of the sound system is that the homecoming kings are off to a genius start.
Come 'Afro-Left', Daley saunters to the front of the stage and lets rip on a marimba, drawing out a wiry, hypnotic refrain. He's joined by Djum Djum, who jabbers his way through an ethno rant-rap and a buzzing Theremin solo. When the uproarious beat finally arrives, what started as a suspense-laden tribal duel acted out by a million-dollar voice and a pair of compelling wangy noises quickly turns into a precise, booming technoid national anthem that has the speaker stacks working overtime and the dancefloor fizzing with another wave of extremely frenetic energy.
Undiminished by the fact that there's no point airing 'Open Up' sans Lydon, they revise 'Original' into a mellifluous instrumental dub-hop jam before pulling the majestic likes of 'Black Flute' and 'Space Shanty' out of the bag.
Oh yeah, and now it's time for rent-a-nutter MC Cheshire Cat to do his slightly worrying thing on the mike. A man who evidently picked up everything he knows about sophistication from a Beavis & Butthead video, he makes like an Anthrax roadie trying his hand at karaoke ragga, chats gruffly for a bit and just about gets away with it.
It's around 3am now and Leftfield are constructing 'Not Forgotten', their encore, at a teasingly unhurried pace. Appropriately enough it turns out no-one has forgotten this surefire classic from their Brithouse past. When its spiky central riff gains momentum we are granted one final and quite perfect opportunity to throw everything we possess in the air.
"God, that was much better than Ocean Colour Scene," a tired and emotional punter proclaims, without irony, afterwards. That's one way of putting it, but there are several others… and they all end with 'truly fantastic'.
review by Andy Crysell (nicked from 'New Musical Express', dated 29 June 1996)