Edit this event
- UNKLE »
On his latest album War Stories the man-from-UNKLE James Lavelle meticulously set out to produce a record that embodied his love for desert rock. Arming himself with long-time QOTSA producer Chris Goss and working at the studio used for The Desert Sessions series alongside (as usual) a plethora of prominent musicians, he created an electrically dark and brooding force more akin to a ‘real’ band than any prior UNKLE output. So, when we discover some rather special guests are scheduled to appear tonight, it makes the proposition of an UNKLE live show even more attractive.
With three giant projection screens, an eight-piece band and an expectant wide-ranging audience demographic (from the A Bathing Ape, Nike Dunk-clad 20-somethings through to middle-aged white van men from West Ham with a penchant for Sovereigns, lager and Ian Brown), Lavelle needs to pull out all the stops. The trio of cinema screens flicker artful futurism as the dramatic and gripping ‘Chemistry’ goes foot to the floor, blasting through this dark auditorium. At every point of tonight’s UNKLE experience I am transported from one state to another, back to warm distant memories, with breakneck precision. Whether it be the lost-in-space futuristic galaxy of material from debut album Psyence Fiction, the fluid, dreamy and whimsical shades of second release Never, Never Land or the dark druggy early-hour desert excess of War Stories, it’s utterly thrilling. The stage show is best described as a cross between the beats and precision of The Chemical Brothers mixed with the live, abrasive feel and dark energy of Nine Inch Nails.
If you weren’t already aware, UNKLE have changed. They now sound like a real rock band with real songs. This evolution is a testament to musical director Lavelle and when he steps into the spotlight he is a surprisingly confident frontman, performing the vocal on recent album standout ‘Hold My Hand’ lacing the song’s abrasive paranoia with the use of reverb throughout. Afterwards, the already close to combusting atmosphere explodes into a flaming inferno of arms in the air and deafening whistles as the first of the ‘special guests’, his royal monkeyness, Ian Brown appears on stage to steal the show. He energetically spits the vocal to ‘Reign’ with all the swagger of the resulting adrenaline rush that sears through the veins following a good chinning of ‘some geezer’ who just spilled "me fooking pint in thee boozer". He returns later to lay down the classic ‘Be There’ and embraces his good friend Lavelle (who, also later, attributes his band’s success as ‘impossible’ without Brown).
Gesturing with pure sexual energy, The Duke Spirit’s* Leila Moss electrifies a riveting _‘Mayday’_ and walks away victorious. Spliced between these guest spots the set leans largely towards the recent material the band have clearly worked hard at translating into the live arena, and they pull it off with a captivating stage experience. Whilst we miss the big man Josh Homme on _‘Restless’_ and Richard Ashcroft on _‘Lonely Soul’_ (so are left with vocal samples), when the beenie-clad cranium of *Damon Gough shuffles on stage for the distorted fuzz of ‘Nursery Rhyme Breather’ it all becomes exciting again. As the delightful ‘In A State’ fades and a riveting encore of ‘Eye For An Eye’ complete with Del Naja/Shynola video playing above their heads proceeds, we know what is about to come to an end is something special.
Lavelle is in awe of this jubilant scene. He thanks the audience with genuine admiration and walks away, as we all do, with a wide smile plastered across his face.
- Leeds & Reading 2011: The DiS preview
- Moving Pictures - Videos of the Year: 2nd Quarter 2011
- In Photos: UNKLE @ Brixton Academy, London
- UNKLE - Only the Lonely
- Spotifriday #82: Raekwon, Bjork, Bieber, FlyLo, The Smiths
- Music News Mixtape #1 ft. Nick Cave, Bat for Lashes, TV on the Radio, Fleet Foxes, Fever Ray...
- DiS meets James Lavelle of UNKLE
- In Photos: UNKLE @ KOKO, London