Immersed in The Avalanches first masterpiece, Since I Left You in the past week or two, thoughts drifted eventually to what might now be seen as a kind of intermediary moment in their career.
Certainly a step short of the shows they put on earlier this year, though this was when there was no Covid to stifle the extravaganza.
Four years ago, the band (well, nearly all the band) made for a party mix on stage that somehow also included one hip hop legend. And he wasn’t doing an online food service ad either!
Wind Back Wednesday cues the hits, the (extremely rare) misses, the cross-fading gems.
Enmore Theatre, January 5, 2017
If it seemed odd to have Grandmaster Flash - yes, he of the Furious Five and The Message – as an opening act, having Mr G. Flash turn that 45 minutes into the Best. Bluelight. Disco. Ever!, or possibly the biggest wedding reception of the year not for someone called Mahejer, may seem even odder.
We’re talking every cliché of the hands in the air/make some noise/sing along nature; rapid cuts (and old school scratching) through seemingly every pop hit of the 1980s and ‘90s - though disappointingly not Toto’s Africa; and a room of 20somethings and people old enough to be their parents, pumped up higher than a NYE balloon as they did indeed put their hands in the air, make some noise and sing along with every chorus.
Two thoughts: what? and, follow that Avalanches!
Set aside the bravery, or confidence, to come on after such a vibe creator, the obvious point about Flash and The Avalanches is that in essence they were working a similar route: hip hop as good time. He was mixing the ultimate set from material everyone knew, for the perfect party. They mixed the ultimate set from material hardly anyone knew (well, until the samples turned up in an Avalanches construction on record) for the perfect gig masquerading as a party.
And this Avalanches show, timed perfectly to fit in under an hour when your brain was overheating from the density of sounds, was a seriously good party.
The sound was very good; the visuals turned into a smorgasbord of patched/mixed together material that was real, surreal and hyper real; the energy was mostly consistent and the mix of live band (drummer, guitarist who also doubled on percussion while filling in for ill Avalancher Rob Chater, a rapper and vocalists) and prepared material was seamless.
Getting Frankie Sinatra out of the way early – the second song – was as smart as putting the obvious encore, Frontier Psychiatrist, as the set closer instead. Dropping in the Clash’s Guns Of Brixton was as striking as dropping in footage of the Jackson 5 (who had been heard in Flash’s set) among some ‘90s teen film.
And everywhere were smart moments, like Nina Simone’s version of Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood as the entrée to Frontier Psychiatrist, Subways feeling like the perfect track for a Soul Train dance off, MC Spank Rock strutting amusingly and Eliza Wolfgramm being the vocalist you wish had even more time.
What flaws there were in the show overall – I’m thinking the too light and too mixed down voice of Oscar Key Sung for one - were balanced and countered by the utterly ridiculously entertaining set by Grandmaster Flash. That’s an extra half star right there.
Party time, excellent.