God is not a DJ. God is an ageing E dealer. This much we can see clearly tonight, in the screaming mouths of the stubbly blokes having it madman style in the balcony and the waving arms of the halter-topped women downstairs indulging in a night of clubbin’ nostalgia before the mortgage and the kids slow their pace. The people have come to worship at the ‘can u still feel it’ altar, and all the gaudiness and the diplomacy in the music of [a]Faithless[/a], which gets them accused of Eurotrance populism or ‘coffee table’ house, is precisely what sends the devotees into a faith-keepin’ frenzy.
[a]Faithless[/a], the brilliant cultural adaptation, have eight musicians onstage sounding like everything that we already know gone awesome. There are skyscrapers of drumkit and percussion. Sister Bliss jigs on the spot, imprisoned by keyboards, stabbing away, tense with implied ravebiz arousal. And skinny scatman Maxi Jazz rides the waves of soft, then hard, black-white tech fusion, a throaty shamen, and a kind of animated carving.
[a]Faithless[/a]’ show is scrupulously paced Arena Dance. The Morcheeba-y Massive tunes where Maxi acts the impresario over a giant shimmery agglomeration form chill-outs between the peaking ‘monsta ravers’. ‘She’s My Baby’ and ‘Bring My Family Back’ give the poetry a slight chance, sucking in references from Detroit to Bristol. In fact, so produced is the live [a]Faithless[/a] experience that the weirdest elements drop unnoticed into their sensurround. The guitarist spends half the night approximating Guns N’Roses and the other half Mark Knopfler, yet no-one is scared.
These smoggy adaptations of soul and groove, with their TV-movie sorrow chords, are the little buzzes. The big buzz is the drum roll one, the apogee of trance technique one, the one everybody waits for, the one which makes Norman Cook sound like Miles Davis. Soused in future science technology and with added subsonic burble, ‘Insomnia’ launches its stupid, glorious, two-fingered refrain and the crowd rises 5ft off the ground.
The Astoria is transported back through memories of Berlin Love Parades and chemical Ibizan sunrises and the assembled humanity comes together, hitting mini-peaks and dubjazz troughs, recapturing ye old-E feeling briefly for the closing ‘God Is A DJ’ where Maxi tells the crowd, “This is my church, and it’s not an exclusive church, it’s an inclusive church”.
But the epiphany has already happened in the moment of state-prescribed ecumenical hedonism, rendering Maxi‘s preacher MCing tertiary. Revealed before us stands not so much a band but a coalition, a give-’em-what-they-want political mirage; a hologram of a palm tree for the living rooms of maturing ravers and the most efficient music on the planet tonight. Encore endless fois, you can bet your generational memories on it.