Words and Pictures: Adrian Hextall / MindHex Media
Going to see an EMF show is like waiting for a bus…. I’d waited over 25 years to see them again at the 30th Anniversary show that took place before Christmas at London’s prestigious 100 Club and then before I knew it, a second gig appeared around the corner before I’d even had time to catch my breath.
That glorious celebratory gig was also reviewed by MGM and the link to that is below:
This time around, the band have a little more urgency, a sense of purpose. No longer are we celebrating one of the iconic crossover albums of the 1990s with ‘Schubert Dip’, this time around the lucky group of people present at The Water Rats near London’s Kings Cross station were there to listen to ‘Go Go Sapiens’ played in full for the first and only time. It’s the band’s first album of new material since 1995’s ‘Cha Cha Cha’ and, with a review shortly coming, represents a real tour-de-force from the band that brought us ‘Unbelievable’, ‘Lies’, ‘I Believe’, ‘It’s You’, ‘They’re Here‘ and many more classic tunes that perfectly balanced rock, dance and the club scene of the 90s.
The Water Rats is a regular choice for those bands wanting to perform an intimate show whilst still delivering the goods as far as lighting, sound and ambiance are concerned. By the time the band had taken to the stage, minus the man behind the keyboards and samples, Derry Brownson, the packed venue was already heaving with people eager to hear material that had taken longer to produce than it has for Boris Johnson to admit that they were ‘parties’!
Derry’s absence was unfortunate but the poor guy has managed to break his leg for what appears to be the third time and is absent upon orders from his surgeon. According to James, the surgeon has told Derry that unless he rests properly and allows it to mend he can find another consultant to fix him up in the future. Wisely our man Derry decided to do as ordered and as such James filled in when he could with tracks and samples filling in the gaps.
The four piece, completed by new drummer Aid Todd performing his first show with the band and bassist Stevey Marsh who’s been with them for some time now, saw lead singer James Atkin and guitarist Ian Dench bring 11 new songs to the table and an eager audience in London ready to lap up every note.
With ‘Go Go Sapiens’ played in track order, the set kicked into gear with ‘Started It’, a bass heavy number with a subtle guitar lick from Ian Dench that built slowly until James launched into his vocals, snarling with intent and energy, leaving us in no doubt that the band are hungry enough to make this work for them once again.
Of course the majority of the audience haven’t been privy to the new music as yet with the album not actually released for a few more weeks. They have however had the opportunity to hear some samples of the new music and in the next track, ‘Sister Sandinista’, a song that has already spent several weeks ear worming deep into the brain of all those present. As such, it got a great reception, with both James and Ian admitting they had no idea which tracks would make it into a standard live set and how the show would help them gauge which ones to use (or not as the case may be). I sense that their work may be cut out as the reception from the crowd, be it singing along or bouncing around the floor of The Water Rats, suggested that any and all songs would make for a good fit.
If proof were needed, the penultimate track of the album is ‘The Greatest Day’, an acoustic number that is a simple case of James singing over some beautiful playing from Ian. Whilst it might not work in a support slot capacity where speed and attention to song energy is paramount in winning the audience over, a venue full of fans would suggest that as an emotive, torch waving number for the masses, this was and could be in the future, a perfect live number.
With ‘Stay Classy San Diego’ offering up the summer anthem we’ve all been looking for and ‘Crime Of Passion’ looking likely to be the next single (which makes me a very happy person as it’s my favourite track on the album) there was nothing to fault in any of the songs on offer. If I had to nail my colours to the mast and pick just one song to be included live, I’d say ‘Equilibrium’ as it really triggers memories of the EMF of old but feels fresh and modern in the same instant.
In the 90s, EMF were rated as one of ‘the’ live acts to see. The power and energy of their shows guaranteed a solid live following and their tours were rightly regarded as ‘must see’ for all of the right reasons. If you go onto YouTube and watch footage from some of those old shows and compare it to the band as they are now, not a lot has changed. Unlike a lot of bands (and members of the audience) who have aged more than little, EMF still look and sound as tight as a gnat’s chuff (it’s a thing) and for that they should be applauded. James was never still, stalking the stage with a fire in his eye, again proving this isn’t a nostalgia trip or a comeback but a real desire to get out there and enjoy what the band have to offer. Similarly Ian Dench pulled out every shape one might expect from a world class guitarist and the smile on his face suggested that he too was having a blast.
Sadly, after the acoustic ‘The Greatest Day’, ‘Sparks and Flashes’ closed out the album and the main set. Did we want more, did we make a tonne of noise to get it, heck yes! Even the fella from The Isle of Dogs (you know who you are – and to be fair, so did everyone else in the crowd!) used his overworked vocal chords to ensure the band came back on stage for an encore.
The encore, dipping nicely into what we will always want to hear, ‘Unbelievable’, ‘I Believe’ and ‘Inside’ saw band and crowd bouncing around as one. It was a triumphant show, the first of hopefully many this year (A short tour in April, dates below, will also hopefully see Derry back in action) with several festival slots already nailed on.
You need to see this band again whilst this fire burns as brightly as it does!
Stay Classy San Diego
Crime of Passion
We Are The Free
Keep It Coming
The Greatest Day
Sparks and Flashes
Apr 9 London, UK,
Apr 10 Bedford, UK
Apr 11 Bristol, UK
Apr 12 Huddersfield, UK