Chemical Brothers Brixton Academy, London

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The Independent Culture
How do you perform the album of the year? The Chemical Brothers' Dig Your Own Hole holds the title for now, opening up techno to rock'n'roll, funk, hip-hop, folk and psychedelia, warping the chemical beats of their debut into something more startling still. They could have been forgiven for expecting a similarly wide-ranging crowd at their post-album London homecoming, a gathering of the tribes which would require careful sonic catering. The reality was very different. It wasn't a hip-hop crowd, as scratch and breakbeat originators Kool Hero and Grand Wizard Theodore, 1970s rap legends brought to Britain in tribute by the Brothers, found out as they were howled off the stage.

If anything, it was a straight mix of dubbers and hesitantly turned-on indie kids, the Brothers' natural constituency. Dig Your Own Hole may be a subtlety woven masterpiece in the comfort of your home. But live, the Brothers wanted only one thing - to make you dance until you bled.

Kaleidoscope images made it look like a be-in. The Brothers made an initial attempt to counter their much-remarked lack of charisma, Tom Dowd dancing at his sequencer and even punching the air. But he soon vanished in a swirl of noise and light. What the Brothers' performance most resembled, stripped of musical specifics, was the efforts of last year's best band Oasis at Knebworth - a group standing still in front of a mass of people smitten by their music, knowing that all they had to do was play.

Fittingly, the only straw of sonic comfort available for nervous indie kids taking a chance was the voice of Noel himself, on the Brothers' first Number One, "Setting Sun", But this was Gallagher as he can never have expected to sound, speaking in Indian tongues, in a tantric chant, a babbling, stuttering hip-hop transmission, one more sound in a sculptured maelstrom. The song's blueprint, The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows", remained only in spirit. The album's variety had been gutted; rhythm and volume was all.

In such an unrelenting context, Dig Your Own Hole's unqualified highlight, "Private Psychedelic Reel", sounded almost like an after-thought, delayed as it was until the encore. But as it crawled to an overloaded standstill, the Brothers' inclusive spirit peeped through a little more. The last image they showed us was a cartoon John Lennon. The last words they let us read were "Love is all". They mean it, man n

Nick Hasted