Monday, 27 February 2012

SBTRKT, HMV Ritz, Manchester

"Ears ringing? Sweaty clothes? Feeling grimy? And loving it? If that’s the case then there is a good chance you went to see SBTRKT @hmvritz on Thursday night. If you, like me have had the SBTRKT album on heavy rotation on all devices you’ll know I was looking forward to seeing how this excellent album was translated into the live experience.

Before I get down to telling you how awesome it all was, I’ll get to that, there are a few things to get out the way. Firstly, I’m 30 and I’m guessing by being there I may have raised the average age of the entire room…by about 10 years. Secondly, due to the age thing there are no doubts a few things that I will write that will make me sound like an ear-trumpet carrying pensioner, perhaps from a war. When I think this may be a possibility, I will put these statements or words in quotations marks giving you the chance to say them with that annoying up-speak, question-contained-in-the-word way that should make us all feel better about ourselves. Thirdly, I don’t often go to see “electronic” music, so it was all new and shiny at the same time as being frightening and unfamiliar.

Me and my good friend Helen got down there about half eight thinking the “band” would be on about nine. WRONG WRONG WRONG. This is like, a club night and ting which meant SBTRKT were coming on at half ten till twelve…midnight. As I wasn’t drinking because I was driving (second big mistake) I thought, no bother, we can be sophisticated city-dwellers and go and get a coffee, talk about books and films etc. etc. and more etc. This is where it all went a bit wrong, I’ll just say. Fuck you HMV Ritz and your no pass-out/re-admission policy. Even though I explained to the teenagers who seemed to be running the place that I wanted to go out and come back their aforementioned shit policy means once you’re in, you’re in, no exceptions. This is great it means you can enjoy the grim decor, unrelenting noise and heat, the sticky carpet and the piss-takingly overpriced bar. £4.20 for generic lager, £2.20 for bottle water. Added to the insult there were maybe two bar staff at each bar meaning you then had to waste a huge portion of your life waiting, cheek to sweating jowl with Manchester finest in student chic.

In all seriousness, it’s one thing to rip me off for gigs with your admin fee but then to trap me in a the venue and just keep on ripping just leaves me feeling a bit sour. But maybe that's just me.We found a good spot on the staircase and people watched for two hours, all I have to say is: What are people WEARING these days? Either everyone is wearing the same shiny leggings/beige jeans/ V-neck t-shirts or, the same planks were on a loop! Not only that; but not since I was about 16 have I had so many people stare at me like I looked out of place. It’s alright guys; I just chose to not look like a bit of a tit, that’s how I roll. If my black jeans and white t-shirt are breaking some sort of unwritten fashion code then I apologise, I just thought timeless cool was the way to go. It’s funny that when you’ve got to a point in your life where you’re happy with how you look, are perfectly fine hanging out and eating fruit pastilles waiting for the wubbs to start that you are presented with a constant parade of vacuous and image obsessed twats to reinforce just how content you are.

Music wise, support act Disclosure played a tight set and got the crowd nicely warmed-up. I thought their tuned were complex and interesting, got the foot tapping and the heart racing. If they have a down side it was that just as the tracks built up and got going, there was a break where the momentum just dropped. I’m sure it’s something that will sort itself out over time and I’ll definitely be seeking them out and following what they do closely. Nice one lads.

A curtain dropped down obscuring the stage and then it began. Without exaggerated the whole room just pumped up, instantly, with anticipation. The beat started and we could see movement behind the curtain. It just started to build and build and from that point on it was simply awesome. At some point during the first track the curtain dropped to show a masked assassin on the drum kit and another mysterious figure pushing buttons and occasionally whanging a cowbell on the other side. It was this dynamic of the drummer playing live and being brilliant and his mate singing and playing some other instruments that took this to the next level. It was a great live show, it was more involved than the album and it had all the energy of a full-on gig experience. I was worried how this “electronic” music would translate but I needn’t have bothered. It was a full sound, and visually compelling as you watched the guys build the sound. Great drummer too. To jump on and off the kit and keep it all ploughing forward takes a lot of skill and this guy had it in spades. The singer was brilliant too, bringing those familiar vocals from the album to life without it being a carbon copy. He phrased lyrics differently as the live versions required and used the voice as an additional instrument. In a nutshell this is what makes a live show a cut above and the reason why some bands need to be seen live: They take that track you have heard over and over, that you know inside out and present it to you live and fresh, even better than the real thing.

The dance floor was packed, sweaty bodies pulsing with the sound, with “Heatwave” and “Right thing to do” getting lots of hands in the air. SBTRKT took the time to thank the crowd and really seemed to be enjoying it as much as were. It was all over too quick, before we knew it they were disappearing off only to come back on and do two more track. They finished with my favourite “Pharaoh’s” which sent the whole room wild and just made a perfect end to an awesome gig. It’s great to see a band/act at the top of their game, skilled and familiar enough with the material to play with the songs and really push it further live. SBTRKT are in that place where it felt like a true privilege to be there, to see experience it. Can’t wait to see what they do next, and as longs as it’s not at The Ritz, I’ll be there to see it. White t-shirt and black jeans, simple but elegant.

Raoul Concord

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