Fujiya & Miyagi, Cargo, London

Live, but not exactly kicking
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The Independent Culture

With a name taken from a character in The Karate Kid and an old make of record player, it is hardly surprising that Fujiya & Miyagi have a cult following.

With leftfield lyrics touching briefly, but nonsensically, on such subjects as body parts and child stars, the Brighton group's Krautrock electro-pop is an infectious experience on record, having developed from more minimalist beginnings in 2000.

This shift has partly been the result of the original duo, David Best and Steve Lewis, bolstering their line-up, first with bassist Matt Hainsby and then Lee Adams on drums. Their 2006 album, Transparent Things, was critically lauded, and contained the breakthrough single, "Collarbone", which featured in several adverts.

Now they are touring Lightbulbs, their third album, released last September, which, musically, didn't represent a massive departure for the group. Still, tonight Cargo is packed with a crowd eager to see their understated electro-pop translated into a live setting.

Understated is the word. When they do come on they barely glance at the crowd before launching into the opening number, "Sore Thumb". They take the slightly strange decision to start off as a three-piece, minus Adams. It's not quite clear what the rationale is for this. When he does arrive onstage, halfway through the second song ("Ankle Injuries"), his propulsive presence highlights the fact that without him, they lack edge live.

Best clearly isn't your usual, egotistical frontman. His vocal delivery is more whispering than singing, and he barely moves throughout the set. His eccentric style can work to his advantage – on the funky "Uh" his droll delivery almost becomes a seductive growl, and his unorthodox beat boxing on "Pussy Footing" is pleasingly unusual.

Yet, tonight these moments prove all too rare, and with few changes in tempo or style between the songs, the crowd seem eager for more variety. Each tune may be packed full of little hooks and curiosities, but they fail to lodge in your head. The lack of stage presence from the band doesn't help. It is not until six songs in that there is anything approaching crowd interaction and even then it's just an "Alright?" It is never a good sign when the video projection becomes more interesting to look at than the band standing in front of it.

By the encore, however, they seem to relax and even let a few smiles slip. They finish with "Electro Karaoke" from their debut album with Best letting rip on guitar, yet it comes too late. It's as if they've just warmed up and are ready for the main show. Fujiya & Miyagi may not be aiming for fame or platinum discs – a commendable approach – but people still need a reason to fall in love with their music. While their records are inventive and addictive, live they just don't provide it.

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