San Francisco Warfield Theatre

Now [a]Moby[/a] wants to be [a]Robbie Williams[/a]...

It has to be said that Rob Fleming, the main character in hit movie ‘High Fidelity’, is only half right when he says it’s not what you’re like, but what you like. It’s also about who likes what you like.

Moby’s solid but unspectacular career prior to ‘Play’ produced more than a few decent tunes and respect as a serious and innovative artist. Now he’s a superstar on both sides of the Atlantic and harsh words like “coffee table” and “dinner party” are being thrown around. All because Brian from Accounts bought the CD to play in his car. To which says: now children, share and be nice.

Not that Moby gives an After Eight. If he did, he wouldn’t be flogging his music to crap sitcoms. The more people who read his liner notes, the better.

There are a couple of thousand here tonight – the first of three sold-out shows. It’s a mix of loyal Frisco house-heads and people who heard ‘Natural Blues’ on the radio, eyeing each other suspiciously.

This is what they call a great opportunity for Swansea‘s prog-house collective Hybrid, who open the show. It’s a dirty job – playing 3am music to an 8pm crowd across the continent – but the live drummer and two blokes engaged in what look like very enthusiastic games of table football are giving it their all. Left-hand side bloke does some silly waving and the bass is distorting rudely, but ‘Finished Symphony’ is a fine, fine tune and the nods of recognition it solicits are well- deserved, and hard-earned.

Not much to look at, then, so initially it’s a relief to see that Moby now wants to be Robbie Williams. He’s jumping around the place like he’s on drugs or something, bouncing from bongos to keyboards and back. Then, as ‘Find My Baby’ follows ‘Porcelain’ he’s on to the acoustic guitar and the other keyboard player moves onto the decks and it’s all very frenetic. All a valiant attempt to disguise the fact that sampled vocals still don’t really cut it live – there is something strangely comforting about seeing a head opening its mouth. The crowd doesn’t appear to be bothered, going nuts to the old school stuff like ‘Go’ and ‘Move’ and getting all hand-wavy to the slower, bluesier songs from ‘Play’. But there is something missing, and it’s not just Bessie Jones, the original sublime vocalist on ‘Natural Blues’.

Despite ending with “the fastest song ever written” (‘Feeling So Real’), this is dance music paced like a rock show and the house-heads down the front will tell you that doesn’t work.

The world’s favourite vegan christian techno preacher tries so hard to make it work, and that is the trouble. It’s too calculated and too damn serious.

And the man is wearing a t-shirt with his own name on it for god’s sake. Now that’s what you call coffee table.