Tuesday, 1 November 2011

27th October 2011: Cut Copy - The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm

Well, I've called my blog 'Gigging Forever' not just because it's a stupendously witty play on my occasional internet screen name but because I intended it to be about gigs, so it's probably about time I wrote about some. And where better to start than a weekend where I'm attending 4 gigs in 5 days? Nowhere, that's where.

The first of the 4 gigs is at the historical Roundhouse venue in Chalk Farm, home to the BBC Electric Proms and host of gigs featuring such legends as the Doors, The Who, Dylan, Floyd and... Dizzee Rascal.

My gig buddy for the evening is my good friend Mark, who, despite being responsible for me discovering a whole raft of amazing music, has only ever accompanied me to one gig before- Camera Obscura at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury. That, whilst good fun, was a rather sedate affair. This will be anything but.

On the way to the gig, we manage to eat a shameful "dinner" at McDonalds, litter All Bar One with the McDonalds debris, drink Weissbier and get insulted by women in lifts for wearing aftershave reminiscent of their dodgy ex (ok, the last 3 were just Mark.)

Regular readers will gradually discover that most of the gigs I go to would probably be filed under the genre of 'rock' or, more specifically, 'prog rock', so when we eventually arrive at the venue I'm struck by a couple of unusual things. Firstly, there are a lot of young people here. Secondly, there are a lot of girls - it may even be 50/50. Thirdly, everybody is cooler than me. There are lots of funky haircuts, brightly coloured "retro-80s" T-shirts (I had those IN the 80s and they were rubbish, trust me), and those big glasses that trendy people wear, which may or may not contain actual lenses and remind me more than anything of erstwhile Radio 1 DJ Simon Bates.

(By erstwhile, I mean he's no longer at Radio 1, I don't think he's dead.
 No, have just googled in case of extreme bad taste
 and he appears to still be with us, much like Bill Withers.)

The evening kicks off quite soon after our arrival with a support set from a band called Spector, who are completely unknown to me until they appear on stage, but open up proceedings in interesting fashion with some quite catchy songs bringing to mind at various times Arcade Fire and Joy Division. Their singer takes the stage wearing what can only be described as a flasher mac, and comes across somewhere between Elvis Costello and Jarvis Cocker.

Rubbish photo very much my own.

The keyboard player / second guitarist, however, looks like he might have got lost on the way to a Spandau Ballet tribute gig.

Always believe in your soul...

In any case, the songs are interesting enough to pass the time and the singer is well worth watching- but we didn't come here to rock. We came to dance.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Cut Copy, they're an Australian Indie-Electro-Pop band who sound variously like New Order (circa Technique), ELO, the Beach Boys and Kraftwerk. But most of all, just like Cut Copy. They're essentially a dance act with guitars and proper songs, with soaring choruses. Or an indie band with sequencers and a knack for getting their groove on. Here's 'Hearts on Fire', which is one of their more electronic songs. Go on, have a listen. 

Anyway, after Spector are done, there's a gap which lasts what seems like absolutely forever, so much so that we start to measure how long until the band comes onstage in terms of songs - e.g. "It's probably only 'Blue Monday' until they come on now... Oh, I don't know, more like 'I Am The Resurrection'..."

But before we get to the depths of despair and decide that it's at least a "Close to the Edge" left, the lights dim and the band come out to launch right into recent single, "Take Me Over", which is basically Fleetwood Mac's "Everywhere" for the electro generation. Right from the start, frontman Dan Whitford has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand with his crazy-yet-endearing hands-aloft movements, and soon everyone around me is dancing.

Yep, I singularly failed to capture him with his hands
 in the air (like he just doesn't care.)

This poses a problem. At the aforementioned gigs I normally go to, the most active anyone gets is a little bit of head-nodding and perhaps some pensive beard stroking if the occasion demands it. Also, I'm probably the world's most awkward dancer unless I've had several beers in which case then I'm John Travolta (in Battlefield Earth, possibly.) But in this instance I literally have no choice because the crowd is packed in so tightly where hundreds of Australian girls have rushed forward to swoon at the band, that I'm essentially being danced by the people around me anyway. I think I'm doing a passable job at not looking out of place when a few songs in, the (rather merry) chap next to me shouts in my ear, "You alright mate? Enjoying yourself?". Evidently it doesn't look like it.

Luckily, the music is so good that I soon forget all about looking like a tit. I'd worried about whether the band could possibly recreate the power and energy of their songs live, but it quickly becomes apparent that they're managing it in some style. Lead singer and chief roof-raiser Dan Whitford's voice is powerful enough to cut through above the rest of the glorious noise made by the others - Ben Browning on bass and sequencers, Mitchell Scott on drums and Tim Hoey on guitars and keyboards. Playing the vast majority of their superb 2011 album "Zonoscope", and breakthrough album "In Ghost Colours" from 2008, the songs range from full on electro-dance workout "Pharaohs and Pyramids" to indie-surf anthem "Where I'm Going" (used in both FIFA 2011 and a Matalan commercial, surefire hallmarks of quality both.)

As if there weren't enough rhythm going on in the room, at the front right of the stage is a set of drums and percussion which are hit throughout by various members of the band, and even one additional member who comes on every so often to whack the hell out of it all. Most notable to discerning music fans are the multiple (yes MULTIPLE) cowbells which are so impressive that Mark leans over at one point and declares that it should be mandatory for every song ever released to contain cowbells. If it gets people moving like we all are, jumping up and down and all around to such a degree that my shirt at the end of the night looks like I've been at the gym for hours, then he might just have a point.

The mystery extra band member has a percussion-off with Tim Hoey.

Hoey in particular is a revelation live, adding funky rhythm guitar to some of the more electronic numbers and, on "Feel the Love", giving us the most beautiful piece of Vocoder work since Air's "Sexy Boy". He even goes ever-so-slightly "rock god" during the extended outtro to 'Sun God', which on the album seems a bit like filler, but live is one of the highlights of the set. With the whole band on sequencers or percussion and Hoey leaping around the stage playing his guitar above his head, lying on the ground and even using the corner of his amp to scrape the strings, eventually things fade out and he's left alone on the stage lapping up the rapturous applause.

A couple of quick encores later and it's all over. Tim Hoey makes the first announcement to the crowd that there's been all night but nobody can hear him. For all I know he's telling us all we were the worst audience he's ever played for and he hopes us and our Simon Bates glasses all get run over on the way home, but let's say the band are overwhelmed by our applause and cheers for more, and are genuinely grateful that we all came out to see them.

Mark and I are absolutely blown away, can't understand how we've not managed to catch them live before, and immediately resolve to be at every future Cut Copy gig in the North Central London area. (Well, I do anyway.) 

It's one of those gigs that only comes along once in a while, that is every bit as good as you imagine it's going to be, and better - and not only that but you're talking about it for days and wishing you could go again. There's not been one of these in a while but little do I know that within the next 4 days there will be two more...


  1. Very good review and very funny too! I'm glad I wasn't the only one to not understand a word Tim Hoey was saying!

    -Bryonie from thoselondonstudents

  2. Enjoyed the blog, i went to see cut copy in Manchester the night before this gig and had a similar experience. The whole place was bouncing from minute one, not seen a crowd or been to a gig as electric as that in a long long time.

    Take a look at their performance at Coachella from this year, talk about sick -