London Wembley Arena

Love and sex seems to be on his mind...

A barrage of green lasers arcing across the expanse of Wembley Arena ushers Moby onstage, to the strains of ‘My Weakness’, the closing instrumental from ‘Play’. The crowd, a strange mix of hardened contemporary clubbers and middle-aged ex-ravers, unite and go mad as their diminutive hero takes the stage and launches into a thundering version of ‘South Side’. What Moby lacks in size, he makes up for in energy, bouncing around the stage like some deranged kangaroo, leaping from microphone, to keyboards, to bongos and back.

Moby is in talkative mood, and love and sex seem to be on his mind. He introduces ‘Porcelain’ saying “I should probably play this as an encore, but it’s sort of a sweet love song, so I think I’ll play it now instead.” It’s all very impressive. But what’s this? Two female violinists and cellist? Are we in the Top Of The Pops studio by mistake? Their main purpose seems to be for visual effect, yet their input is a harbinger of acoustic reworkings of various tracks which are to come.

In hindsight it’s easy to see why Moby decided to go for acoustic and even gospel versions of his more recent songs – omnipresent as they have been over the past year, they are in desperate need of new interpretations. Accordingly the audience are distinctly underwhelmed by ‘Find My Baby’, but the entertainment level soon soars as Moby segues into material from ‘I Like To Score’: ‘James Bond Theme’, followed by a gorgeous, uplifting version of ‘Go’.

Now the club-heads are really motoring and Moby tells us, “This is the sort of thing I used to play back when everyone was wearing big baggy T-shirts, with smiley faces on them.” And, although the clean-living house hero is ’embarrassed’ to admit it, there were times, horror of horrors, when he used to find himself at six in the morning dancing his head off surrounded by total strangers, loving each and every one of them.

And from here on in, Moby’s true weakness seems clear. He’s a club hero, and yet his new album is distinctly MOR. Despite the fact that they must’ve been out at the shops snatching up ‘Play’ by the armful, the audience seem to know this. The older stuff is what they really love. Towards the end of the gig, seemingly awestruck by the size of the venue, Moby informs us that, seeing as he’s playing an arena, he feels like he’s part of a long line of rock guitar heroes. Mocking his predecessors he dons long white ‘hair’ (a towel) and proceeds to ‘rock out’ with a cliched guitar solo, finger-tapping and all.

OK, so he’s taking the piss – but the irony is, in a few years time, it’s all too easy to see some star of the future similarly mocking Moby and his endless reworkings of house standards. By the time the closing song ‘Honey’ rolls around, followed by three (count ’em) encores, it seems that Moby has really played himself out. A gospel version of ‘Feeling So Real’ still retains its feelgood factor however, and there’s no denying that Moby’s still got what it takes to make us move our feet, and make us laugh. As he introduces the band, prior the finale, Moby tells us that a man dressed in a bizarre animal costume is his “secret love child”. Mmmm. Super and furry. Well done Moby – but haven’t we seen all this somewhere before?

Tom Stone