Matter live launch, 02 Arena, London
Tuesday 23 September 2008
At a time when we've become accustomed to music venues closing down all over the country, it's refreshing to have the opening of a new, purpose-built club and live venue to celebrate.
Even with its location in the commercial behemoth that is The O2 complex in Greenwich, the 2,600-capacity Matter is pleasingly intimate. The people behind London's iconic Fabric nightclub have created a hi-tech space – all grey colours and steel – with the look of a blinged-up warehouse.
It's obvious that a lot of money and thought have been invested in Matter, from the LCD TVs in the ceilings to rather less hi-tech – but just as valuable – features such as the good views of the stage offered on all three levels. The banks of amphitheatre-style seats around the back of the main room are another clever touch.
Breaking in the latest addition to the capital's gig circuit was Fabric resident DJ James Lavelle's experimental project UNKLE, with Carl Cox following on for the inaugural club night on the Saturday.
Support came from the rap-rockers Iglu & Hartley and the ludicrous Late of the Pier, who managed simultaneously to bemuse and galvanise the crowd, especially on the bonkers "The Bears Are Coming". However, much of the buzz centred on the rare chance to see UNKLE perform with many of their previous collaborators.
Unfortunately, the biggest name of the lot, Ian Brown, never materialised because of illness, appearing in recorded form only for a nonetheless dramatic "Reign". One of those who did make it was The Cult's Ian Astbury, and when he or the other vocalists – including a sunglasses-clad Lavelle – were at the mic, they provided a welcome focus for the songs.
Matter's much-hyped "bodykinetic" dance floor, consisting of 80 transducers pounding to the music, was perfectly suited to UNKLE's mass-guitar assault, as were the mightily impressive visuals, projected not only behind and beside the stage, but also on to the ceiling. Still, it wasn't until the encore and "Eye for an Eye" from 2003's Never, Never, Land that everything clicked, despite the best efforts of the energetic band that Lavelle has collected.
It'll be interesting to see how Matter manages to balance its live and club duties, but on this showing it's a long overdue breath of fresh air for the London music scene.
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