Thursday 6 September 2012

Grimes at Heaven - 5 September 2012


As I make my way into Heaven, my initial impression is that there is someone onstage killing a cat.  Fortunately, I don’t need to alert PETA or the RSPCA – the appalling noise is Majical Cloudz, a project of whizkid Devon Welsh. The music is fine, but the vocals are excruciating.

To be fair, I only catch the last ten minutes or so, so it is perfectly possible there may have been a moment of serenity when a note was hit accurately earlier in their set. However, what I hear is pretty much the sound of a wino wailing under a bridge.

Becoming Real is the alter ego of Toby Ridler, a musician who is left onstage to entertain us with a set of rather nifty electronic dance music. He faces the great DJ dilemma.

This problem occurs when all the music is stored on computer and doesn’t require much more attention than remembering to hit the ‘On’ button. Ridler compensates for this by shuffling and twiddling as though his life depended upon it. Watching him closely, he is rarely doing anything to his equipment at all; he is merely pretending to be as busy as Glenn Gould pounding away at the ‘Rach 3’.

There is no real reason for him to be onstage, as the same effect could be gained from him slipping his CD on and leaving the crowd to their own devices while he enjoys a long cool drink. Instead, we are presented with the knob twiddler’s equivalent of an air guitar solo.

Claire Boucher aka headliner Grimes is all too aware that unadorned electronic music is not much to look at. So she lays on plenty of distractions.

The first, and by far the most impressive, is a lithe and Amazonian pole dancer who contorts and disports during the first two numbers. It’s a genuinely awesome and athletic performance.

Grimes bounces and bobs backs and forth behind her keyboards and flicks her long blonde ponytail about. She’s electro-Barbie.

With the pole dancer off for a rest, Grimes is joined by various musicians who are flamboyantly dressed and who help to keep the crowd engaged. To this end we also get back projections of Japanese anime plus an assortment of balloons and bubbles blown about the venue. It’s not so much a gig as the kind of bright and shiny distraction afforded to toddlers plonked down in front of the television. I’m fine with it, but then I get the giggles if someone jangles their keys at me.

The music is a kind of sparse and atmospheric distorted pop that is kind of like the first Madonna album given a good tweaking by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. Vocals are sampled and run backwards and forwards, beats are stretched and distorted.

The percussionists clap, Grimes bounces and we watch the visuals. Everything is amicable and cosy. In ‘Genesis’ Grimes even has something that could be played on the radio as a spectral but straightforward pop song.

There is a minor equipment glitch during the encore, but Grimes shows her showbiz chops by making light of the problem and chatting easily with the crowd until power is restored.

It’s been a good show rather than a great one, but ‘good’ is not to be dismissed. Ooh look – bright lights!

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