Moby, London Astoria

By Fiona Sturges
Saturday 15 March 2014 03:50

Moby may have sold tens of millions of albums in the last three years, but he sure doesn't look the part. He's small, pale and bald, and talks in flat, halted tones like a kid who's been asked to read aloud at school. His wardrobe seems to consist of sagging T-shirts salvaged from the Eighties, while his dancing resembles a geriatric morris dancer who's downed a bottle of whisky. It's only when the music starts that all becomes clear. This descendant of Herman Melville, the author of Moby-Dick, is the consummate rock star, a wisecracking frontman whose banter is matched by his mastery of a range of instruments, from the guitar to turntables, keyboards and bongo drums.

His nine-strong band, which includes a rock-chick bass-player, a formidably talented soul diva, and a triumvirate of Goths on cello and violins, aren't bad either, busily swapping instruments and frequently rushing to the front of the stage to gee up the crowd. Of all his musical playthings, however, Moby seems most at home with his guitar, offering us a few chords from Deliverance's "Duelling Banjos", and the odd snatch of the Ramones. "Left to my own devices I'd just stand up here and do cover songs," he confesses.

Emerging from New York's punk scene, Moby's first band was the hardcore outfit the Vatican Commandos. His roots are evident in the way he charges up and down the stage barking into his mic, and in a joyously hell-for-leather version of the Ramones's "Blitzkrieg Bop".

Not that Moby has forgotten the songs that put him where he is. Old and new hits are played with equal energy, among them "Extreme Ways", "We Are All Made Of Stars", and his early Twin Peaks-sampling "Go".

Inevitably, though, it's the tracks from Play that get the biggest cheers. The 1999 album that took Moby into a new commercial stratosphere may have suffered TV-ad overkill, but "Porcelain", "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?" and "Natural Blues" sound as warm and soulful as the day they were written.

Moby seems to be having the time of his life. Through the evening he's showered with gifts, including a T-shirt reading "Moby for President, Eminem for intern" (a riposte to Eminem's mauling of Moby at the MTV awards) and some sparkly knickers. For the encore, there's "Feeling So Real", the 1994 dance anthem that our host describes as "one of the most beautiful techno songs ever made". You have to agree.

UK tour, 16-30 November

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