Live review

Groove Armada
Academy, Manchester : 19.10.2001

As I walk into Manchester's Academy, just minutes before Groove Armada are due to go on on stage, I'm faced with an uncommon sight. The venue is well and truly sold out. Despite the fact that Goodbye Country (Hello Nightclub) has failed to scale the commercial heights of breakthrough album Vertigo, the demand for live Groove Armada has obviously not diminished.
    And tonight is going to be interesting, cause this is an attempt at fielding a full live band, rather that the approach of most dance acts; sticking to triggered loops and pre-recorded material alone.

Groove Armada - Click to enlargeAs I make my way forward through the tightly-packed audience, and the hanging clouds of dope smoke, there's activity on the stage; Groove Armada have arrived to the opening bars of the awesome Chicago. If you thought this track sounded good on Vertigo, then this is a revelation; more instrumentation, deeper bass and an adoring crowd make this a fantastic way to open a set.
    The voice of Gram'ma Funk is the first indication that Chicago has melted into I See You Baby. The band keeps the beat constant and the pressure on. Just like the opener, this track really comes into its own with a little tweaking for the live environment.
    Tuning In and Edge Hill drop the pace before 'that annoying song off the advert' makes an appearance. To give If Everybody Looked The Same its due, it gets one of the best crowd responses of the night. A look around takes in a sea of gyrating bodies.

Groove Armada - Click to enlargeWhile Tom Findlay sits behind his stack of electronics, and Andy Cato swaps between brass and guitar, visuals are provided by a somewhat obvious selection of back projected chill out eye candy. Oceans, skies and the Groove Armada logo all make repeated appearances until we witness a super-sized oriental vocalist appear for the chilling At The River.
    After a very strong start, Groove Armada play through some of their weaker material, until an all-too-short Superstylin' snaps my attention back. Raisin' The Stakes follows, and the set is closed by a surprise cover of Curtis Mayfield's Movin' On Up.

Goodbye Country (Hello Nightclub) has a handful of excellent highlights swimming in a sea of mediocre material. Although tempered by the best bits of Vertigo, tonight's concert suffered from the same problem. Having said that, when they tackled their stronger songs, Groove Armada really made tonight's show a pleasure to attend.

:: Rowan Shaeffer

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