Small Is The New Big

John Foxx and Louis Gordon, Pressure point Brighton. July 31st 2006

© birdsong.Tuesday, Aug. 01, 2006 – 08:50:06 pm

I could tell it was going to be a great night in Brighton when the first record played once the doors had opened and the 200 of us had wound our way up the rickety staircase to The Room Upstairs was Soft Cell’s inaugaral classic “The Girl With The Patent Leather Face”. Memories of similar ‘compact’ venues in Oxford pubs (The Weddoes, An Emotional Fish) caming flooding right on it.

Hand written publicity is always a good sign, and tonight was no exception:

“There it is look, right at the bottom. July 31st.”

John Foxx (oh, yeah and that other bloke) on the ‘Absolutely no t-shirts or posters’ tour’… followed by a list of CDs on sale, with several scribblings out through the prices.

This is how I like it, and the DJ set just got better through the half hour until the support band emerged from the crowd onto the stage. Little people. I thought at first that Mark and Vanessa from The Rubicks were real pixies. Great set of tracks from the aptly named ‘In Miniature’ album, clearly enjoying their return to the kingdom of Foxx after two night’s headlining for the first time at a festival in Fairyland. Sorry, Basel.

The Rubicks have presence and talent in abundance.

But there is no bland. How can they possibly succeed?

Actress/Model. Popmobility. How can they NOT?

Though the PA was good (and I suspect better than at those Other Places), it didn’t help get the best from the HeathRobinson effects boxes and drum machines, but the songs are undoubtedly clever, superbly structured and performed with a passion I haven’t seen in a new band for some years.

Vanessa looks amazing – a kind of sixties chic with a fringe longer than her skirt, and a voice that conjures up echoes of early Deborah Harry tinged with some Siouxsie, a hint of Lene Lovich. A dash of Danielle Dax but heaps of individuality, and just exactly the right amount of trash.

Are Rubicks the next Goldfrapp?.

Just as clever but a little more straightforward. Loved it. Screamed for more. Had a chat for an hour afterwards and went away with a signing, a hug, some little bits of paper and a Big Hunch.

But I’m forgetting something.

Like everyone else in the crowd (is 200 a crowd?) I was here for the main event. That bloke out of Ultravox. The last night of the mini tour of the UK’s titchiest venues.

No back projections, no Tiny Colour Movies. A new song to introduce the set, presumably called ‘Sideways’ given that in true Kraftwerk style there’s only one line repeated throughout, and then a radiant beaming Foxx calls “Hello Brighton!!” from behind his Lexicon.

He speaks! Told you it was going to be good.

Just like the very old days. But not Brighton of course. Then it was “L.A.” or “Berlin”. But you get the point.

Straight into a new version of ‘Walk Away’ from The Garden and already I note that I have never (OK, so I’ve only been to six previous gigs) seen John so animated. He leapt around all night, striking the coolest poses. Playing the synth at arms length, flambouyantly striking those crucial notes that we all came to hear, grinning broadly all the time. Dancing.

And dancing more than, at times I thought, a rather tired and bombed out looking Louis Gordon, doing his best to recreate Robin Simon’s guitar breaks or Currie’s violin dervishes. Succeeding mostly too. Well played that man.

“Warm your back on Friendly Fire.”

“Rock and Ro-oll – hey! Rock an roll, rock an roll, rock…”Nearly. ish?

A blistering early Human League song?

The best of the new material by a long way. Except A Million Cars, which is already so much part of the repetoire now that it sounds like an old friend.

The sweetest Thing

The smell of corrosion

Still buying used cars from Ballards.

Plaza, No-one Driving and, at last, after a long, looping, shouting and stomping version of Nightlife to emphasise the pleasure of electricity, the Underpass that all the people-who-have-come-to-see-John-Foxx were waiting for. Good to see it back in the set as ‘UNDERpass’ too. Its been Overpass since 97. Smart move I think, bring back the darkness.

‘Tonight John Foxx will be playing songs from throughout his career from Ultravox to now’.

Someone had tried to peel the bill off the wall. A nice touch of Englishness. Very apt. None of the other bands I’d even heard of.

Thirty years between some of the material but I couldn’t see the join.

Triumphant, we shook the floor with The Man Who Dies Every Day.

No John, You’re The Man. You really are The Man.

He rocked with Louis. In time. Together. Nodding and weaving. Something akin to a sensual celebration of a sound that its creator knows is good. A man re-assembling at the peak of a new kind of form.

‘Just warming up now’ he said later, winking. The twinkle still in his eye. ‘Bloody knackered’ said Louis. ‘Its been great but I’m glad we finished.’

But a live set from Foxx these days isn’t complete without the endless coda that is the magnificent Shifting City. Side by side with the Ultravox standard ‘Slow Motion’, sounding fresh from its recent airing on the BBC. ‘This one’s for ****’ called Louis, over John, as the fragmented intro kicked in. The main man smiled and nodded, leaving his manic partner to take most of the lead vocal.

And it went on. And on.

But its meant to. That’s the point.

In a world of downloads and shuffle selections, there is a place for doing it live. Getting up there and belting it out for the people that travel.

The people that care.

Rubicks, new and original. Tiny. John Foxx – massive.

Back in the old familiar glow again.

Small is the new Big.

Welcome to the retro-future.

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