Into the Pit: 072: Ladytron – Live at Carling Academy Sheffield – 25-November 2008

What has been a busy month or two for gigs continued last night with me heading back to Sheffield Academy 2 for the Ladytron gig. Also on downstairs in the main venue was Jarvis Cocker, so it transpired, and in some poor organisation all punters were being pointed towards one main queue, and then another for ticket collection…with no indication that to collect tickets for Ladytron you actually had to go ’round the corner and collect at the entrance to the Academy 2 (the info on the website made no mention of where to collect, other than “the box office”). So cue a large number of frustrated punters as we move up the queue, only to find we were in the wrong one.

Asobi Seksu
Live @ Carling Academy 2, Sheffield
25 November 2008

The one support band were Asobi Seksu, a strange band that really didn’t grab me at all. Fronted by a tiny female Japanese singer, with the rest of the four-piece band being men about twice her size, they were a bizarre hybrid of pounding, very loud indie-rock, and then the vocalist adding swathes of electronic flourishes and unintelligible lyrics that were possibly sung in Japanese, it was difficult to tell. The problem is, for most of the set it sounded as if the two parts were pulling in different directions, and the two parts did not work together at all as a result. Apparently this band, according to their Wiki page take influences from the shoegazing scene, but I didn’t see it. In addition, this was yet another gig where an attempt to compensate for the crap sound was made by simply making everything louder – in particular a thunderous drum set-up that at points obliterated everything else. Not a band I’ll be making an effort to listen to on CD, to be honest.

So it was left to Ladytron to improve things – and in honesty it was something of a mixed bag. The sound was (again) poorly balanced, meaning it was difficult to hear either Helen or Mira’s vocals, and some of the newer songs really don’t come across all that well live – particularly with the fearsome amount of bass that appeared to underpin each and every one of the newer songs. In particular opener Black Cat, whose sonic intricacies on record (and Mira’s vocals) were obliterated by the thunderous beats, meaning it ended up being somewhat less interesting that it should. In addition, putting Runaway and Ghosts back-to-back only served to show that both go on for much longer than they need to – the constant repetition of the choruses on both to fade out for a couple of minutes on each is really unnecessary.

Ladytron setlist:
Black Cat
High Rise
True Mathematics
Season of Illusions
International Dateline
Fighting In Built-Up Areas
Burning Up

Destroy Everything You Touch

Much better were the older songs, in the main – High Rise‘s sparse, angular beats and reverbed-to-hell vocals made it bloody marvellous live, and International Dateline worked well for similar reasons. Sadly my favourite track – Fighting In Built-Up Areas – again descended into a muddy sonic mess.

And while, yes, the feeling of icy-cold detachment and aloofness that the band conjure up on CD adds to the atmosphere, it really does work against the band onstage, with the band looking at best disinterested, and I got the distinct impression that this affected the crowd, who were in the main static. This doesn’t excuse the amount of chatter to be heard in the venue during quieter moments in the set – it felt at points that most of the crowd wasn’t even paying attention.

Or maybe it was that they were just waiting for songs that they knew – and if that’s the case, I could swear that three-quarters of the crowd were only there to see Seventeen and the inevitable closer of Destroy Everything You Touch, as these were the only tracks where the crowd – and the band, frankly – actually showed any signs of life or giving a shit.

My irritations with the gig didn’t end there. After paying a fair amount for the gig – £12.50 plus all the booking fees that took it to nearly £17 – I felt really fucking short-changed to find the band playing just a forty-minute main set, with a three song encore, that saw them all done in fifty five minutes. And after seeing a band that were doing little more than turn up, this was simply rubbing it in. I’m going back to listening to this band on CD, and I think I’ll keep it that way.

Leave a Reply