As far as crossovers go, it’s pretty impressive. You wouldn’t think, somehow, that fans of [a]Les Rythmes Digitales[/a] retro-electro dazzle would also fancy Coldplay’s understated acoustics. Or that anyone enraptured by the pathos of Shack’s classicism would also fall under the spell of Campag Velocet’s beat-heavy malevolence. But it’s happening, right here. The second night into an [I]NME [/I]Premier Tour seemingly constructed around contrast and mutual exclusivity, and the place is going absolutely, slaveringly, bonkers – not just for one band, but for all of them. Quite a sight.
Singer Chris Martin’s pre-tour predictions that COLDPLAY would be performing to empty venues are proved resoundingly erroneous, as it seems virtually all of the capacity crowd have turned up early. The band are irrepressible with enthusiasm for their forthcoming album, and indications are rife that their talents have not yet been fully revealed. New songs like ‘Yellow’ and ‘Shiver’ are burgeoning with epic tendencies, soaring and diving with sophisticated melodicism, yet played with masterful restraint. Most striking is set-closer, ‘Everything’s Not Lost’, for which Chris settles behind a piano. Underpinned by a bluesy, somnambulant riff, the song’s mingling of melancholy with optimism recalls REM’s ‘Everybody Hurts’ and, as a result, seems reassuringly profound despite the unintelligibility of the lyrics.
Touchingly, Coldplay are clearly flattered beyond all imagination to be up onstage, and their goofy unpretentiousness makes their skilful tunefulness even more endearing.
All this shuffling humility, of course, is in stark contrast to the practised cool of CAMPAG VELOCET, who strut onstage to an accompanying ominous rumble and bold black-and-white text projections. Bassist Barney Slater is rocking Ramones-style in ’70s fringe and striped T-shirt, and Pete Voss’ scowling countenance has been enhanced by several days’ growth of facial hair, which makes him look like he’s recently broken out of a rehab centre. They mean business.
In terms of confidence and presence, tonight Campag confirm just how far they’ve come since the ramshackle performances that harkened their arrival on the scene a year ago. The demented, scuffed-up beats of ‘To Lose La Trek’ and ‘Bon Chic Bon Genre’ have been hammered out of shape and refashioned into stealthy, gleaming machines, while the uncharacteristically straightforward new single ‘Vito Satan’ is cast out with insouciant finesse. They also debut newie ‘Instinct-Intention’, which, despite only being penned in the week preceding the tour, rattles with furious intent. After a sprawling, vertiginous reel through ‘Drencrom Velocet Synthemesc’, the screens flash ‘Performance Over’, Pete rants something about “arts and crafts”, and they saunter off looking convincingly misanthropic. Amazing.
LES RYTHMES DIGITALES, meanwhile, are the evening’s surprise star entertainers. Jacques Lu Cont and lady associate Jo Reynolds trundle out in matching boiler suits (complete with cinched waists and epaulettes – how suitably 1980s!) and make like ten-year-olds miming to their favourite records. They do choreographed dance moves and are utterly bloody brilliant, primarily because they so patently don’t give a fuck how stupid they look. By the time Jacques and Jo – trading stints on bass and keyboards – have camped it up through the cheesy squelch-a-thon of ‘Dreamin’‘, the feverish absurdity of ‘Jacques Your Body (Make Me Sweat)’ and the aptly-titled ‘Music Makes You Lose Control’, the audience are positively transfixed, not knowing whether to abandon themselves to the dance urge
or to simply stand
The transition to SHACK’s honest, well-honed songwriting couldn’t be more pronounced. From the sublimely ridiculous to the ridiculously sublime. Shack are in rare, exquisitely dishevelled form – Mick Head looking even more like a dissipated boxer than usual with patchwork bruises and a stitched-up forehead (the resolution of a “disagreement” with a cab driver, allegedly). As they move from the hazily picturesque ‘Streets Of Kenny’ to the euphoric ‘Natalie’s Party’, Mick sits down on the floor, opens a can of lager and watches in amazement as the crowd jump up and down, as if it’s something he thought he’d never live to see. And, when hundreds of voices join in the chorus to ‘Comedy’, he actually looks so overwhelmed with emotion he might break down and cry.
Shack have captured hearts and minds that for a very long time seemed closed to them, and, clearly, they’ve emerged as tonight’s most adored heroes. This is beyond triumph. It’s redemption.