The venue was a very odd one. The Grosvenor House Hotel on Charter Square, a hotel that has clearly seen better days, and indeed will soon be gone forever when the block in which it resides is demolished for the new Sevenstone retail quarter. The oh-so-slightly tatty interior was like a relic from the seventies, a snapshot of a Sheffield-past that barely now exists anywhere else in the city. Everything, even down to the wallpaper and signage – and the floor-to-ceiling mirrored corridors – seemed to have been untouched for decades.
Grosvenor House Hotel Ballroom, Sheffield
17 April 2008
And the same could perhaps be said of Richard H. Kirk. In their prime, his old band Cabaret Voltaire were busy helping to push the envelope of electronic music, helping to create new sounds, new genres and influencing countless other artists since.
So perhaps the impressive turnout was not all that unexpected – although the audience had their patience tested by the delay. It was billed as “time: 2030”, and no-one even moved from the bar until 2100. Then, it was an ever-increasing time to wait in the “ballroom”, with Ralph Razor acting as warmup by playing a great electronic set. 2130 came and went, and it wasn’t until 2200 that Richard H. Kirk finally deigned to take the stage – by which point my girlfriend had certainly lost patience, and I wasn’t far behind.
With no introduction, no fanfare, he took to the small stage behind a bank of analogue equipment, below three large screens, and immediately began the “show”. Which was electronic music of various forms, with the odd vocal sample appearing, but in the main instrumental, with the video screens showing a continually changing collage of images and video that seemed to have some form of “message”, but in amongst the barrage of sound and vision it was difficult to concentrate (but more likely the message was “war=bad, american foreign policy=bad” – certainly that gives an idea of the images that were shown).
The other thing – it was painfully loud. There was little in the way of subtlety due to the volume, which was a shame – there were elements of what was going on that were really interesting, and I would liked to have heard more of. However each section seemed to last only a few moments before moving onto something else, and while it in the main was well constructed, it didn’t feel like it flowed well.
There were also clear nods to his past work, with a very “old-school” feel to some of the beats and samples, almost as if he had cut’n’pasted parts of his CV work into the set, while other parts were simply straight-up techno that was indistinguishable from many other techno artists around now.
After forty-five minutes of these beats and images, both of us had been battered into submission and decided to call it a night. Being a “legend” is one thing, trying the patience of your audience is another.