What could be a better way to get yourself in gear for a Saturday night out then to see one of the pioneering acts of British dance music as they’ve returned to the top of their game. While electronic acts such as Chemical Brothers and Underworld were the stalwarts of festival rave stages of the 1990s, Leftfield were the choice of musician for the more sophisticated raver. Their debut studio album Leftism, released in 1995 was unique in the diverse range of influences pumped into its production with vocals by post-punk icon John Lydon juxtaposed with the reggae stylings of Danny Red and Earl Sixteen clearly evincing this. Alternative Light Source, their first album as a sole person entity, channels this diversity and has received widespread critical acclaim from throughout the music press. I was particularly interested in witnessing how this would transfer live.
On entering the venue I was greeted by the reassuringly ominous techno stylings of Newcastle’s very own Shindig stalwarts People Get Real. Now considering this gig started in the early evening of a Sunday night it was quite a feat for me to actually catch the duo when I was relatively sober. Every other time I’d seen them I’d been unbelievably intoxicated to the point that I could be listening to the best of Enya and still want to swing my shirt over my head and fist pump. The set erased the last vestiges of a hangover that was lingering over me. The crunching bass drum and metronomic hi-hat pulsated around the room and was sure to make the water clutched in bottles by aging and balding ex-ravers vibrate as if the crowd was being pursued by a fucking Tyrannosaurus Rex.
"I was worried that he was going to start easy with us and start the performance with some ambient dub as foreplay. There was no foreplay. This was heavy and passionate fucking from the off-set"
By the time Barnes took to the stage, I myself and everyone else was suitably lubricated for dancing. For a split second I was worried that he was going to start easy with us and start the performance with some ambient dub as foreplay. There was no foreplay. This was heavy and passionate fucking from the off-set when he opened the gig with the pulsing energy of Light Source’s ‘Bad Radio’. The audio combined with the elaborate light show constructed on the stage would possibly have been too much to handle had I been in more intoxicated spirits. I definitely would have needed a sit down to recover from the opening barrage of sound.
As the first three tracks of the set came from the recent release, I was beginning to wonder if we’d see anything from their earlier offerings. When they dropped ‘6/8 War’ from 1999’s Rhythm and Stealth the nostalgia fiends in the crowd took this as their rallying cry to raves long gone. With only ‘Space Shanty’ and encore opener ‘Song of Life’ representing Leftism in the set, it was surprising how well the rest of the set flowed. Despite there being at least twenty years between the material from Leftism and Alternative Light Source the performance merged into one homogenous mass. There was no point of the performance that seemed ridiculously out of place and by the time we hit the closer of ‘Phat Planet’, this audio-visual fuck-fest had well and truly splattered the room with aggressive and penetrating bass.