Friday, 18 October 2013

'You know you like it but it drives you insane' - AlunaGeorge, Leeds Cockpit, 17/10/2013

Having gone through a bit of a dry spell gigwise this summer, getting its nutrients only from the odd splash of pop punk or reformed laps of honour from 80’s pub bands, it’s good to see Leeds cockpit back on form. Marked as the venue most bands hit on their way up, it often acts as the last chance saloon before the big time, which bodes well for AlunaGeorge, having released their promising debut album this year in a wave of Disclosure-affiliated hysteria.

Before we can test whether tonight’s hispterlicious crowd indeed know the words to anything other than ‘White Noise’, we are treated to the Danish stylings of MØ, who postures like she means it in between her very cramped live set up. With the same intimidating, formidable presence and direct vocal style as Anna Calvi, she becomes difficult to pigeonhole – one leg in The Asteroid Galaxy Tour Euro-pop and the other in the more sultry, sophisticated land of Lykki Li. Inciting some pretty impressive middle class ‘ghetto’ dancing from the teens in front of me, you can’t fault her enthusiasm, despite a drum-heavy sound balance making it difficult to decipher the words she is singing. It’s a shame, because from the confidence MØ exudes, her words are probably worth listening to.

With the crowd suitably warmed up, AlunaGeorge respond to the rapturous applause that greets them with ‘Just A Touch’, arguably the best non-single from their debut album Body Music. They seem a little stiff and nervous, and the song suffers because of it: it’s almost like they’ve come to offer an X factor audition of themselves rather than the real thing. They settle in a little by the third chorus, clearly feeding off the crowd, but there is still something missing.

After rattling through ‘Kaleidoscope Love’, ‘Best Be Believing’ and ‘Outlines’ with stunning precision, the penny drops. Whilst AlunaGeorge are clearly a very talented band and quite something to listen to, they simply haven’t learnt the art of entertainment yet. They make music that thrives in a club atmosphere – the sort of music people want to dance to, not to watch. It allows for a glass wall to settle between audience and performer, creating the sort of interaction that comes from watching a performance from your sofa in front of the telly – it’s entertaining, but not at all immersive.

Still, it’s not all bad. George mans his various pads and keys with ease and a visible musicality to his movements – this is not a band that use electronics without true need. Aluna’s distinctive voice remains pure and strong throughout despite tonight’s gig being slap bang in the middle of an extensive tour, and her choice of stage outfit teaches a very good lesson of feminism in music – she may be wearing next to nothing, but her sports bra and boxing shorts are the outfit choice of a performer, not a brainless tantaliser. Even their cover of ‘This Is How We Do It’ is far less cheesy live than it is on record, one of the rare times where Aluna seems to relax and smile naturally – maybe she feels less pressure in delivering songs that are not her own? Whatever the issue, it’s one that could be easily remedied if they remembered to have the same amount of fun that their songs encourage.

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