Live review

Air
The Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge : 17.2.2004

Talkie Walkie, the new disc from French electronica duo Air, has impressed me in a way the pair haven't managed since 1998's seminal Moon Safari. Has it really been that long? Listening back to Moon Safari for the first time in a long time, the surprise is how heavily it relies on a small handful of fabulous tracks such as La Femme D'Argent and Kelly Watch The Stars. Talkie Walkie may have arrived with less of a fanfare, but it is at least Moon Safari's equal, if not measurably better.

Tonight, Nicolas Godin and JB Dunckel include tracks from virtually all stages of their career, but tellingly it's a set heavily weighted towards both Talkie Walkie and Moon Safari. Coming on stage to the sounds of an angelic chorus and sweet harps, slow opener Radian soon gives way to an rocky, upbeat take on Alpha Beta Gaga - Godin's live guitar and whistling taking centre stage.
    Early effort J'ai Dormi Sous L'eau shows just how much Air have improved, before Dunckel proves that it isn't just his vocals that are camp: Coming out from his nest of keyboards bathed in pink light, beret balanced on his head at a rakish angle, toting a white handheld keyboard that Les Rhythm Digitales would be proud of . . . words can't quite describe the fey splendour, but if this in any way helps Surfing On A Rocket take the set highlight award them I'm all for it.

10 000Hz Legend's People In The City is the backdrop to a frenzied Hammond wig-out that would make The Doors' Ray Manzarek blush, before Air-defining current single Cherry Blossom Girl takes things down a notch . . . a notch which is quickly vacated as the sleepy Talisman loosens Air's grip on their audience. Here's where you start to think that maybe a projector wouldn't be a bad idea to add some visual interest - after all it's worked for acts from Groove Armada to Orbital - because aurally it's all got a little boring.
    It's not until an ill-conceived extended version of Run that I remember where I am; just in time for a careering blast of Kelly Watch The Stars. Damn this sounds good.

Air's encore wisely sticks to the Moon Safari era, and they trot out an outrageous Sexy Boy - Dunckel once again in the pink spotlight, naturally - and a warm and fluffy La Femme D'Argent to universal approval. Job well done French blokes, but think about that projector idea will you?

:: Rowan Shaeffer

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