Leftfield: alive and kicking and very, very loud

ROCK

"It'll be very loud," warned the publicist. "I'll wear earplugs," I chirped in reply. "It's not your ears you have to worry about," she said. "It's your internal organs."

Sure enough, the arrival of Leftfield at the Liverpool Royal Court on Tuesday was heralded by a wall of blue light, a tidal wave of volcanic smoke, and a foghorn groan that shook the contact lenses out of my eyes. The beat started pumping, yet the audience were more intent on watching the band than on dancing, as if in Pavlovian response to the pounds 10 ticket fee and the presence of a stage. They cheered when a man tapped a bongo, and cheered louder when another man shouted, "Leave a poo" - a confusing instruction that turned out to be the name of the city. Considering that Leftfield are, in anyone's record collection, a dance act, this all seemed a bit pointless.

Their album, Leftism (Columbia), was shortlisted for last year's Mercury Music Prize (an award they deserved for obtaining a listenable vocal performance from John Lydon). Labelled "prog house", it's an album of extra-terrestrial world music: Jean-Michel Jarre with street cred. It was made by Neil Barnes and Paul Daley, with the help of a lot of expensive machinery. Trying to recreate it onstage would appear to have as much point as adapting Jurassic Park for the local theatre group. It's guitar-envy. If you want to play live, why not form a proper band?

I soon changed my mind. Indie crowds are too busy clambering over each other's heads to notice that the "live" band are as mobile and vigorous as a set of traffic lights, while here was a "dance" crowd expecting a show, and getting it. The lighting alone kept those of us who still had our contact lenses in entertained.

The expensive machinery was supplemented by energetic drums and keyboards, not to mention the Leave- a-poo man playing a theremin as if he were strangling an invisible neck, and someone else hitting a single-stringed instrument that could have been stolen from an archery club. The songs were rearranged almost beyond recognition, negating my why-not-just-play-the-album misgivings. Were those burbling arpeggios part of "Space Shanty"? Who knows? Leftfield probably don't.

None of this explains why people would buy a ticket to see them in the first place. Probably the main reason why people attend rock concerts is for the brief apotheosis of occupying the same room as someone you always assumed occupied a different universe. We feel that bit nearer stardom if someone from TV-And-Record-Sleeve-Land is chatting and mucking about this close to us.

In which case, Bo Diddley's show in north London's intimate Rhythmic Club was the ultimate rock concert. After all, Bo is a founding father of rock'n'roll, and, if his innuendo-laden blues-brags are anything to go by, a father hundreds of times over. His songs have been covered or copied by everyone from Buddy Holly to the Jesus and Mary Chain, and his attitude has been copied by the whole of the rap world. Some of his influencees repay their dues on his new album, A Man Amongst Men (East West), which has as many guest stars as it has songs. (There was less chance of Ron Wood being absent than there was of Diddley being absent himself.)

Diddley's legendary accoutrements were all in order: black suit, hat, TV-screen specs and guitar disguised as a flight case. Otherwise, he was a little too human. The band was indifferent, the mixing was worse, the songs dragged, and Diddley, 67-years-old and recovering from a back operation, had to stay seated. He played some classics, but these were undermined by the question of whether any of them had developed beyond his first single, in 1955. The A-side was "Bo Diddley" (cf "Bo Diddley is Crazy" and "Oops! Bo Diddley" on the new album), the B-side was "I'm a Man" (cf the title of the new album, while you're at it). Seven inches of vinyl is a small surface on which to balance a 40-year career.

Still, he made some moves that his physiotherapist wouldn't approve of, and he had a veteran's charm and authority, threatening us with obscure curses if we failed to buy his record: "You gonna turn on your gas and your chicken ain't gonna fry." Crumbs. In the end, it was a successful performance. But for a time, there, it was a close one. This close.

Space can't help but invite a particular comparison. They're four young men, they come from Liverpool, they write classically catchy pop songs, and at least one of their haircuts could be justifiably described as a mop-top. The inevitable question: are they the new Cast?

Answer: No, but they do have a similar taste in anoraks. Space prefer psychedelic ska to Merseybeat, and have more to fear from the Specials' lawyers than the Beatles'. Their wonderful single "Female of the Species" has taken them into the Top 20, on to Top of the Pops, and, last Wednesday, into the backroom of the Joiner's Arms, a Southampton pub. Presumably the tour was set up before their career left the launch pad. Soon their dressing-rooms will be bigger than this whole venue.

Space come across as a sweetly boisterous and unpretentious gang who update their influences with dance beats and a gaggle of samples. And while the drummer is the only member of the band to show real mastery of his instrument, the whole is definitely greater than the sum of the guitar parts.

The songs are the thing. They're delirious horror stories, mostly sung by bassist Tommy Scott in a voice that sounds like Speedy Gonzales, or sometimes like Ray Davies. My two favourite couplets come from their first hit single, "Neighbourhood" (Gut): "In number 666 is Mr Miller / He's the local vicar, and a serial killer"; and from another song called "Drop Dead": "I'm your number one fan. I've got your picture / The more I see yer, the more I wanna hit yer." The inevitable conclusion: Watch this Space.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
ebookAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    (Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

    Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

    £55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

    £60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Principle Geotechnical Engineer

    £55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Day In a Page

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices