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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
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.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

    £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

    Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

    £26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Day In a Page

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
    RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

    RuPaul interview

    The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
    Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

    Secrets of comedy couples

    What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
    Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

    Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

    While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
    The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

    The best swimwear for men

    From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
    Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

    Mark Hix goes summer foraging

     A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
    Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

    With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

    Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
    Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

    Aaron Ramsey interview

    Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
    Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

    Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

    As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
    The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

    Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

    Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms