12 Jul 2008
|Tour by Unkle|
|Location||Somerset House, The Strand, London WC2R 1LA|
|Supporting act(s)||The Duke Spirit|
Saturday nights Somerset House summer series saw prog rockers UNKLE unleash their own distinctive electronica fuelled epic set. From the breathtaking opening of Chemistry the groups spectacular visual style had the quaint settings and fans hypnotised into a euphoric frenzy. UNKLE didnt stop for breath once during a breakneck, adrenaline packed two hours. Taking advantage of the glorious summers evening War Stories- UNKLES latest underrated studio album- played out like an operatic, rock tour de force. There was of course still room for some old school classics to make an appearance- Never, Never Land's stand out track Eye for An Eye proved to be an inspired choice to close the evenings event. But trying to pick the evenings highlights wouldnt even begin to do the sublime set justice, from the gorgeous orchestral highs of Reign to the melancholy rock epics Burn My Shadow and In A State. Thats not forgetting the cheeky encore appearance of Lupe Fiasco- a massive UNKLE fan. The entire evening was for once helped out by Londons dodgy weather patterns- it proved to be a sun drenched night to remember.
James Lavelle doesn’t like standing in the same spot for very long. If it’s inherently obvious in his onstage persona – grinning, fist pumping and jigging across the stage – it’s plainly mirrored in UNKLE’s rather uneven back catalogue.
So as the Heritage Orchestra, two DJs, two guitarists, a bass player and drummer file on stage you wonder just whether tonight will really come together for UNKLE.
The initial signs are reasonably promising: the PA is pretty tight as Chemistry rolls out; the weather is mercifully moderate and not the torrent which chucked it down last night for Justice; Lavelle’s phonebook has a lot of fine guests he could call upon.
Indeed there’s a distinct spring in his step as he strides forward for the second number, Hold My Hand, and judging by his delivery, it looks like he’s been taking tips from his longtime collaborator Ian Brown (who is absent with a headline slot at T-in-the Park tonight).
The current incarnation of UNKLE is a road dog with plenty of air miles clocked up in the past few months, taking their cues from Tool and Nine Inch Nails live shows. It served the meatier material from War Stories very well and added an extra dimension to a show which would otherwise have been a minefield of exuberance and self indulgence, as UNKLE’s first two albums were.
Of the guest performers lined up, most failed to turn heads: Damon Gough, Gavin Clark, Lupe Fiasco. That was with the exception Duke Spirit’s Liela Moss, fresh from her band’s support slot, who got the most attention from her skin tight body suit as she belted out the blues stomper Mayday.
The lethargic mood of the audience ironically dissipated for a crunching rendition of Restless, though sadly we were only blessed with a backing tape of Josh Homme (as were the Ian Astbury and Ian Brown numbers).
Like any UNKLE record, the set was not easy to plough through in one sitting. The few choice cuts from new album End Titles… made little impact. The latter part of the two hours deviated to older territory, which save for Eye For An Eye, nose dived the evening enough to make you will the set to end, which it eventually did, to close a slow, unremarkable Saturday night.