You write the reviews: Morcheeba, Carling Academy, Oxford

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The Independent Culture

Sitting in a noodle bar opposite the venue prior to this gig, my friend and I discussed the possible flaws of seeing Morcheeba live. How would the electronic chill-out band perform their repertoire? Would they just have decks and a couple of keyboards? Although we had both been fans of the band for years, neither of us had any idea of what they looked like until receiving an email gig reminder the day before. Unfortunately, the press photo of two smartly dressed middle-aged men was not inspiring. No wonder that their A&R guys have chosen not to feature them on their album covers.

Morcheeba are only a group in a loose sense. The band is primarily the brainchild of the brothers Ross and Paul Godfrey, who've worked with a collective of different musicians over the years to create their unique soul-tripping dance beats.

It was our first time at Oxford's Carling Academy and we were surprised by the intimacy of the place. After a short wait and an instrumental track, the band finally appeared. They started with some of their early songs, their movement on stage mirroring the psychedelic, hypnotic rhythm, before moving on to stronger material from their current album, Dive Deep, on which "Enjoy the Ride" and "Riverbed" both feature the bassist Bradley Burgess's haughty vocals.

Meanwhile, Ross Godfrey's guitar solos were reminiscent of Pink Floyd and Andy Nunn looked totally at one with his keyboard. But the star of the performance was the lead vocalist, a wonderful French singer called Manda, who sounded like a sensual, melancholy angel.

As the concert progressed, it turned out that Morcheeba live are very much an old-fashioned guitar band, entertaining the crowd with some audience participation and banter. Ross slipped in some dedications, including one to the recently deceased Albert Hofmann, the man who developed LSD.

However, the most surprising thing about the show was that even though we knew all the songs, Morcheeba sound so different live that it was like seeing a new, up-and-coming band. When they moved on to tracks from 1998's Big Calm, one of their biggest-selling albums, the venue began to feel like a San Francisco jazz club in the late Sixties.

Morcheeba are a collective of two halves. One half touts the precisely engineered and digitally mastered albums, but they can also become the dynamic guitar band of their live performances. It's impossible for me to pick which one I prefer. But having the two just makes life sweeter.

Ruth Gasson, Student, Northampton

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