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Live Review: Calvin Harris

So, our arch Twitter enemy would appear to be Number One material. But who exactly goes to watch Calvin Harris? Somerset House, London, Monday, July 20

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Photo Gallery: Calvin Harris

You know those awkward moments where everything is focused on you and that focus isn’t necessarily friendly? “And thank you very much as well to the NME reviewer who came along tonight,” says Calvin Harris waspishly. “This next song’s for Conor McNicholas. That should be enough to guarantee a bad review.”

Not quite, Calvin, although your obsession with us is becoming unnerving. But shoe pie is not why we’re here. We came because we are ready
to stand up, be counted and say, look: Calvin Harris is not that bad. Calm down, it’s true. And though he might crave it, Harris doesn’t need critical approval: by dropping the novelty indie-electro in favour of, in the shape of Number One single ‘I’m Not Alone’, an evil-genius melding of singer-songwriter introspection and the kind of ridiculously euphoric chart trance that’s usually the product of a DJ with a face like a builder and some generic warbler on day-release from the working men’s clubs, the boy from Dumfries has cleaned up.

It’s a strange fanbase he’s won: a hardcore of dance kids is encircled by a layer of Take That-listener types who look like they’re not sure why they’re here. As he strolls onstage with “coooome on” hand-gestures, kicking off the brain-invading crunch of ‘Disco Heat’, it all seems ridiculous: the crowd is distinctly gappy, the song sounds tinny, he looks a bit of a muppet. The moment hangs in the air. But Harris can make singles, pop careers and gigs work through sheer force of will, and he’s not letting this one go. Flailing like someone wired his keyboards wrong, he punctuates each song with yells of “Here we go!”, “I wanna see your hands!” and enough such tit-bits to make even ‘Merrymaking At My Place’ rousing.

Immensely likeable as our compulsive-Tweeting pal is, though, new single ‘Ready For The Floor’ is terrible, drowning Harris with a bellowing rent-a-singer and substance-free pop-house. But ‘Burns Night’ is kind of great, indulging in some Pink Floyd atmospherics before whipping out the hard, housey beats. ‘Girls’ rather than an oddly muted ‘Acceptable In The 80s’ gets the crowd roused, but when Calvin closes with ‘I’m Not Alone’, everyone goes bat-shit mental – the song is a legitimate phenomenon. He might not have created disco, but he’s certainly created something: can he keep it up? Well, if he can’t even get a bad review in NME…

Emily Mackay

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