Lo Fidelity Allstars, Scala London

Old-style big beats
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The Independent Culture

The crowd and the band look like veterans of a war of which memory is already fading fast. But it has only been three years since the Lo Fidelity Allstars led the latest British attempt to fuse rave, funk and rock, this country's elusive pop grail ever since Primal Scream released the sublime Screamadelica, back in 1991. The Allstars' initial efforts were crippled by the resignation of their singer on the night before their first major tour. But they've staggered on, and a mixture of dumb luck and blind faith has seen them to their current position: surprisingly successful in the States, but almost forgotten here.

Their debut album's title, How to Operate with a Blown Mind, could be the seven-word autobiography for themselves, and for many of their fans. But their excellent new record, Don't Be Afraid of Love, introduces a more idealistic layer to their hedonistic vibe. And, looking at their DJ and current frontman Phil Ward, grinning with delight just to be here, and at this crowd of ageing ravers in similar mood, you can't help but feel that they're onto something. "We've been away a long time. We shouldn't 'ave left ya," Ward apologises, before letting out a traditional, late-Nineties war cry: "Let's be 'avin' ya! Come on!" And, with a spaghetti western whistle, a chest-rattling bass boom, and a strobe explosion, this long-running party restarts.

Ward is the visual centrepiece and chief cheerleader, winding up and pitching an imaginary baseball as beats crash in. He also fetishises his band's guitars, showing their respect for a sleazy version of rock'n'roll tradition, even as their music emphasises what's happened since: deep rumbling dub, set to slicing synth stabs. With Ward's mention of Leeds United, a rough trinity of dancing, sport and loved-up excess is being revived here. "I've seen the light !" Ward cries on "Sleeping Faster". Looking around, it seems the audience share his unwillingness to let that vague ideal dim.

With Ward leaving vocal duties to stored samples half of the time, a democratic mood that was normal in early raves but rare in rock applies. It's continued by the crowd. When Ward touches offered hands, it sets a chain-reaction of cans bouncing off the roof, and of people leaping like they're ready to join them, under ecstatically flickering white light.

"We're not the latest thing. But we're the right thing," bassist Andy Dickinson states. Tonight, at least, it's difficult to disagree with him.

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