Four Tet and Explosions in the Sky, November 3rd 2005, The Sage, Gateshead
At first glance a post-rock outfit and melodic electronica performer seemed an ideal live pairing to induce maximum subdued blissed out shuffling but neither performance fully lived up to their stereotype.
Good Ol' Texas boys and support act Explosions in the Sky opened their set with some muscular but lean instrumental rocking out which kicked a damn sight more backside than it does on vinyl. Inviting unlikely Spinal Tap comparisons with their synchronised instrument wielding they still managed to fit the pigeonhole of a newgazing outfit with a fringe, a big beard and some intense kneeling down. Even though most of their material kept moving, taking tight turns at a good speed there was more than one song that had a heavy touch of Fleetwood Mac's "Albatross" (minus seagull FX) in their lazily lengthy guitar lines. Their performance had a hazy type of feel to it as each song caressed the palms of the next as they bled and led into one another. For all their brief punchy strident sections they remained firmly gazing at their shoes in more than spirit. It may sound like a flippant criticism but the band seemed to rely a little too heavily on this formula, so even though their chiming climbing guitar melodies were beautiful in a lost memory sort of style, it could have been any one of a hundred other bands albeit a strong example. I could listen to them all day, but I would never put it on myself.
It might just have been just my imagination but the crowd seemed to get that little bit thinner as Kieran Hebden AKA Four Tet took the stage (in politically dubious neon Nike shirt). He started slowly, seemingly unsure of what to do and when to do it and whether the audience could hear him. After some initial glitchy tomfoolery he soon found his feet and got his teeth into rhythm after rhythm cracking the myth that Four Tet is a more melodic project rather than a rhythmic one (a point that Everything Ecstatic began to convince me of). Heavy enough to rock the crowd out but still keeping electro’s supple structure he had the crowd paying strict attention at least giving him the benefit of the nod. Considering the lack of invention in commercal melodic electronica's skeleton of late this was an gratefully received but unexpected turn of events from Four Tet.
Sadly this new found growing beat confidence seemed to have left him struggling to catch a flow between the songs as he turned to his table of wires creating a brief percussionless mush in-between each piece. This stop / start style put a few people off their steps but it's difficult to have anything to bitch about when his sense of rhythm is so incredibly on point.