LIVE REVIEW / Pull the other one . . .: Joseph Gallivan watches Inner City with knobs on at the Subterania

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The Independent Culture
INNER CITY are known among technomeisters not just as the founders of the genre, but as the act that actually writes songs. They brought a few of them to the Subterania on Tuesday night - few being the operative word. Five songs, a remix, and cheerio. Inner City's composer / operator Kevin Saunderson tried to homogenise the whole show by DJ-ing between the acts (both of which contained his wife Ann as singer), but the records seemed like fillers and the live acts never broke into a sweat.

The music of Reese Project, a showcase for new Detroit vocalists, has some cachet when circulating on white label vinyl, but you wouldn't want to queue to see them. The authentic inconsistencies of live vocals do not sit well on the machined brilliance of their digital audio backing. Karaoke threatens.

That's the trouble with 'Personal Appearances'. Do 40 minutes constitute a live experience? Does an electronic gadget become an instrument if you tweak its knobs rhythmically? Inner City's Antonio Echols appeared to be the equivalent of a triangle player. He lurked at the back, hood up, fiddling with what looked like a cash register and bashing out the gorgeous sampled chords of 'Good Life' and 'Pennies From Heaven' from his synth pad, but even then not all his actions corresponded with what was coming through the PA.

The singers produced a similar effect. Ann Saunderson gave up the sweet, childlike backing tones while Paris Gray's churchy lead exhorted us to 'Praise' and other such borderline-spiritual activities, but there was always a surplus of disembodied vocal washing around in the mix. To keep the interest up, the band have two sprightly dancers dressed like members of a SWAT team, who mixed some vintage body-popping with balletic spins to great effect. Not many people can negotiate the platform of orange tiles that cuts across the front of the Subterania's pokey stage. The audience, meanwhile, jogged on the spot in true 'acid' fashion (as soul lovers dismissively refer to house music). Perhaps it is because house never cultivated its choreography or its look that it translates worst of all to the live arena. When they bowed out with a remix of the once-thrilling 'Good Life,' it was clear that we had been watching just another commercial for a remix album.

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