Norm plays storming homecoming DJ set to hundreds losing it in the sea...
Not often you can say this, but Brighton seafront is tonight one of very few places outside of the Bible where you are warned that if you carry on having too much fun, you will be drowned. So it came to pass: in the summer did come a man in a check shirt to bring unto the twenty-somethings a certain kind of dance salvation. Thousands are gathered from one pier to another. They are, against all sensible PA warnings, dancing in the sea. They are being carted off in ambulances. And they all appear not to mind at all.
Such is the nature of this homecoming gig. In other hands this could be simply a question of a bloke in his late thirties playing some records – here, however, this is all rather different. This is the Normbury Festival. Normkilde. Normstock. A perfect meeting of man and hometown: if Brighton’s fortunes (be it of football team, relative coolness, or new city status) can be linked to one individual, then it’s to Norman Cook, and the hedonistic carnage offered to this 2 hour DJ set is some kind of testament to it.
None of which need concern us any further, because up in the Privilege balcony overlooking the whole thing, NME has just seen Johnny Ball from 1980s TV show ‘Think Of A Number’ helping himself to a piece of barbecue chicken, before he settles down to enjoy the subtleties of his son-in-law’s mixing, which has got to be a result. There’s been a photocall of triumphant Norm, while Groove Armada do their set, there’s Zoe in the house, but ultimately there’s the main event.
It’s a Hawaiian shirt free-for all. Norman writes messages (like, “Wave to the boats!”) on the sleeves of his records, displays them to the TV cameras, then watches delighted as his commands are met by the crowds. He starts with Madonna‘s ‘Music’ mixed with ‘Vogue’, moves on to ‘Born Slippy’ and his own ‘Right Here, Right Now’, and tempts the crowd with crumbs from his Big Beat table, before bringing the show to a climax with ‘Praise You’. That there’s even a bit of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in there somewhere tells you a lot about his method – populism may be his weapon of choice, but his genius is in the strategic deployment of the missile.
True to the carnival atmosphere, the policemen are, obligatorily, smiling. Right here, right now? Norman service has been resumed.