Review: Leftfield live at Marble Factory, Bristol

Press photo of Leftfield by Steve Gullick

Leftfield by Steve Gullick

Leftfield’s tour reached Bristol last night, May 25th.

There’s something melancholic about seeing the electronic generation reach middle-age.

With Underworld, Orbital and The Chemical Brothers all active and touring, their greying hair is a reminder that time comes for us all.

Their music, which soundtracked so many youths, was designed for that stage of life: visceral, hedonistic, unpredictable and exciting. We’re used to the idea of the aging rock star, but seeing older men behind decks is largely a new experience.

But, just as Jagger and Macca can still put on a show, so too can the rave heads. In fact, with superior technology, it’s likely that they sound much better than they ever did. In Leftfield’s case, based on this showing, it’s hard to believe they’ve ever been mightier, even with an accordingly middle-aged crowd looking to roll back the years (aren’t we all?).

Indeed, Neil Barnes is even content to dispense wisdom, as a booming voice echoes around the venue at the start of the set with advice such as, ‘Be aware of your body’, and, best of all, ‘Keep your phones in your pocket as much as you can to show respect for other people’.

Ironically, the latter gets a massive cheer but is long forgotten by the end of the opener (a thudding, trippy Pulse which warps like a lightsaber attached to a spinning top) as countless videos are taken which will undoubtedly go unwatched.

Said videos will likely be redundant for the bass (supported by a full drum kit) should render them useless, so shaky will they be.

Age has not dulled Leftfield: they still rock (if you will) like bastards and could teach the younger generation a thing or two, not least on how to perfect the cavernous soundscape jam of Melt, which arrives like sunrise (with fitting backdrop) to announce the encore. The glistening, bubbling, just-before-comedown track has been much copied but never bettered.

Commendably, despite their iconic back catalogue, the set largely focuses on new material taken from last year’s This Is What We Do album.

The pensive, uneasy Making A Difference thumps and glitches with Cheshire Cat providing vocals, while Earl Sixteen steps up for the menacing and moody Rapture 16, all scorched bass and deep inhalation.

Power Of Listening and Accumulator fuse into one another with increasing acceleration and ear-splitting sonics, the former a chunk of HEAVY trance and the latter all pneumatic acid groove. Only the title-track falls short, feeling slightly repetitive mid-set.

Elsewhere, Sixteen and Cat play their part in immediately cranking things up a gear for the shimmering juggernaut of Release The Pressure, followed by Afrika Shox which relentlessly pounds away at the venue walls.

Barnes and Adam Wren demonstrate their complete control, shifting tempos and moods at ease yet requiring only an arm in the air to get a big cheer from their audience.

The slow, tribal stomp of Song Of Life is welcomed like an old friend, cleansing the soul as it unfurls, while Phat Planet batters the crowd into submission with ribcage shuddering bass for the finale.

As the house lights go up, Barnes takes to the mic and thanks Leftfield’s crew and audience for their part in a spectacular, life-affirming old-school rave up.

Some of us get older while some just get better.

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