Liquid, Liquid, Barbican, London

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The Independent Culture

To be considered influential is something of a musical knighthood; proof of your wholesome artistic integrity and an invitation to the rock'n'roll history books. In much the same way, influence can also render a forgotten artist credible (and marketable) for a groovy new generation.

Liquid Liquid are influential. Tonight, as they play their first ever London gig, that's what they're billed as. With just three EPs and a few bonus tracks recorded in their 28-year existence, the Manhattan four-piece have inspired everything from the burgeoning Eighties hip hop scene, to Nineties indie-dance crossover.

So, swaggering on to the stage like a post-punk torero, front man Salvatore Principato gazes out like a man with the world in his hands. As the killer bassline of "Groupmegroup" thunders out behind him, Principato's hands rain down on a marimba in a wave of percussive intensity.

The result is Tom Waits-esque, sound flying everywhere with a faint tinge of rap in the half-spoken words. With a drummer, percussionist and bongo-playing vocalist, Liquid Liquid could quite easily sound cluttered, but the rhythms are never anything other than claustrophobically tight.

Sadly though, what is lacking is that indefinable connection between band and audience that, however misleadingly, leaves the fans feeling that their love is requited. Maybe it's the fact Liquid Liquid come across as so esoteric. Or perhaps it's that Liquid Liquid only seem to have one song, and they're intent on playing it all night.

With a clutch of songs still remaining, it's telling that a large number of seats have been vacated. It's a reminder that influence, however career-defining, is not always a byword for excellence.

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