Here lie forgotten things…
Me? At a John Foxx gig? A rare thing these days for a complex number of interplaying reasons. Among these – and here is the part where you can all shout at me – is that I have not managed to coincide my infrequent appearances with a really good show and tend to experience frustration and an element of disappointment when I walk away.
I think that is just ‘the way it is’ and live on stage there are other acts who, at least for me, hit the spot with more consistent accuracy.
But on the back of the recent highly-praised tour with OMD (and Brighton is only 80-minutes drive from my house) I ventured forth with high expectations, a good friend alongside and a deep blue sky above – to the wonderful Concorde 2 at the foot of the cliffs in Kemp Town.
The building, with its cast iron arches and delicate wooden latticework is known as The Madeira Shelter and was built to provide shelter and protection from the weather for Victorian bathers waiting to use the hydraulic cliff-lift housed inside.
The lift is still there and still in use – it was quite surreal watching people with pushchairs, dogs and brightly coloured plastic toys exercising their right to cross the hall floor while a few metres to their right John Foxx and the road crew went through the soundchecks…
They went through four tracks in full, using The Shadow Of His Former Self (which Hannah also sang through solo) to balance and sort the vocals. Foxx insisted that his vocoder was pitched up as high as possible, checked by the sound-desk when the dials went up to eleven and those little red lights came on. It was short, sweet and effective – Foxx has a natural way of putting people at ease and encouraging everyone that it will all be OK.
And so it was. More than OK, by a long way. I stood near the back throughout, the smile in my heart getting persistently brighter with each track played and it became progressivley more obvious that this was the best John Foxx And the Maths gig In the World, like, Ever.
They burst into flower with Evidence, pushing the bass through the floor and out the open door. A slightly slowed, oiled and oozing interpretation that bled down the walls and wrenched your gut. Outside through the fire escape I could see concrete and railings as they played He’s A Liquid, and the sky turned white in the falling sun while Benge hit the Simmons drum set like gun shot.
One of John’s personal favourites to play live is the bouncy poptronic single Evergreen, merging seamlessly into No-One Driving and sitting comfortably alongside it’s 30-year old grown up cousin. Two more upbeat catchy and persisent songs followed from the Interplay album – Summerland and The Running Man. Purposeful. Intentive. Is that a word? Full of intent…?
Foxx is still running, and he’s still a fair few years ahead of the rest of us. He seems completely at home up there, like the front man in a good band again. His relationship with and respect for and Hannah Peel is a clear as the smile on his face. She comes in and kills the track with some annihilating violin work. They laugh and smile together when he misses a bit of timing and she picks him up. A nod and wink from a frenetic, focussed Benge and they crash in to the ‘classic’ Burning Car and the swaggering arrogance of Catwalk.
I went outside during this song. It was just too tempting. There can’t be many venues whose main entrance looks straight out onto a beach and opens directly onto the dance floor? A quiet word with a security guard and I slipped into the evening for five minutes – the music inside more than loud enough to reach and soundtrack the shifting sea.
All of which triggered the geometry of the most remarkable coincidence, because the next track in the set is unmistakably Underpass. The lights were on the pier, and a car passed between me and the venue before I slipped back inside. Barnbrook’s visuals for this track are now as much a part of it as the music, and the typography is as iconic as the track. He told me the name of the condensed, retro serif typeface too and I’ve darn forgotten it…
From elevators come to the sea view. Foxx could have written that line for Plaza about tonight’s venue, and he delivers it bathed in a cool blue light. All the faces shimmered and even the walls were turning round.
After a menacing version of Talk, vocoded to the hilt, The Maths moved into Shatterproof and it was only at this point that I felt a little deflated and less than convinced. It seems this track has been smoothed out, slowed down and shined up. Certainly it was lacking some of the venom with which it spat out of the blocks on other gigs. It strangely felt as if the song is actually one of the few shatterpoof tracks in the catalogue – over-familiar and ‘safe’?
Not so The Shadow Of His Former Self, which has more than grown into the space afforded to it over the past couple of years. No sentimental trash here – it’s one of the set’s highlights and it could have happily been twenty minutes longer. But that wouldn’t have given time for a sauntering Walk around My Town off The Shape Of Things.
Foxx is relaxed. Refreshed and strong, he has really taken ownership of this arrangement. It clearly suits him and lifts the confidence. He really does present himself as another New Kind Of Man these days – invigorated and inspired.
Confident enough to close the set with a live debut for Tides – as described above, affirming and ‘lovely’. The whole encore was a beautiful, endearing thing. The Good Shadow is curiously quaint, both un-nerving and re-assuring in equal measure.
I felt it was an excellent set, perfectly representative of the Maths live sound. Well lit, well performed and expertly managed from the sound desk. Loud of course (some of them prefer it that way) but to good effect without being over-powering. Deep breath and happy thoughts. Turn and wave. He’s done it. At last, I get it.
Thanks to everyone involved and here’s to you, John Foxx – it seems I am indeed compelled to play these games again…
Read more here (Review from The Brighton Source)