Thursday night was something of a trip into the past. Although not for the venue – somehow despite my fifteen years or so of gig-going in London, I’ve never made it to the Purple Turtle until Thursday night (and of course, in the way these things go, I’m likely to be there at least two or three more times in the next few months). I wasn’t all that impressed with the venue, to be honest – cramped, grimy and with little air circulation at all, thus reminding me of all the times I’ve spent in various small venues over the years.
Amid chances to catch up with a few friends, and random conversations with friends of friends, it was time for support act Empirion, a bit of a blast from the past that I hadn’t even realised had reformed until they were announced for this show. And perhaps my tastes have changed, or it’s just the passage of time, but for the most part they didn’t do an awful lot for me. I’ve long since grown out of being particularly bothered by hard dance, and while Empirion were and are very good at what they do, it all seemed a bit, well, one-dimensional. There were good moments, though, not least the seemingly evergreen Narcotic Influence (I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard that in clubs over the years), and something of a surprise in the airing of KM1, a track from Oz Mosley’s other project KLOQ of which not a lot has been heard of recently, which effortlessly dovetailed into the set and did two things – reminding me of their actually quite good album from a couple of years back, and also a pointer that KLOQ weren’t actually all that different from Empirion, really. But overall, I wasn’t really left all that blown away. Those down the front clearly were, though – perhaps you just needed the right (and some), um, narcotic influence?
It wasn’t Empirion that I was there for, though. I’ve wanted to see Meat Beat Manifesto for *years*, so I wasn’t going to pass up the chance, and in the main, they didn’t disappoint. The whole, lengthy set was a reminder of just how ahead of the curve Jack Dangers was from the start, in the way that tracks effortlessly jumped across dance genres, with material from the new album taking in techno, dubstep, dub and some absolutely brutal bass-heavy electro (#zero in particular, which assaulted our eardrums early on). It was the old stuff, though, that really got the crowd moving, including an absolutely phenomenal I Got The Fear early on, 24 years young and still better than much of the electro that has followed from artists MBM have clearly influenced. Other old favourites were not neglected, so we got a euphoric Helter Skelter, the dub-inflected Radio Babylon (an utterly joyous track that I still adore, although one unfortunate side-effect of this being played – I’ve had Boney M in my head in the day or two since), and best of all, a thundering blast through one of the many versions of Original Control that just fucking ruled.
One thing that did jar a bit during the MBM set, though, was that for all of the sonic continuity between old and new material, somehow the set just really didn’t flow all that well. There were fabulous moments, but there were moments where it was clear that the attention of the crowd was wandering, and various conversations could be heard amongst the punters. But that was a minor quibble, really – to finally have experienced some of these moments of electro greatness amid a happy crowd was enough for me. So yeah, it was definitely worth the effort of going on a warm Thursday night, even if I did duck out a little early in the end (I did have to get up at 0620 the next morning, and hey, I like my sleep).
The setlist, by the way, broadly looked something like this.