NME National Tour

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NME National Tour
Tour by Unkle
Start dateJanuary 10, 1999 (1999-01-10)
End dateJanuary 24, 1999 (1999-01-24)
No. of shows13
Supporting actsLlama Farmers, Delakota and Idlewild

James Lavelle and the Scratch Perverts joined up to tour Unkle's Psyence Fiction album, after a warmup set during the Worldwide Bapeheads Show 1998 in Japan.

During the Astoria set, Ian Brown made a guest appearance to sing Be There, his first live appearance since being released from prison on December 24 1998.[1]

After the tour, James Lavelle and the Scratch Perverts performed on Breezeblock on Febuary 1st[2], and then visited Ireland on 4 Feb 1999, where DJ Shadow also made a quick appearance.


  • 10 Jan - Scotland - Glasgow - QMU
  • 11 Jan - England - Liverpool - Lomax 2
  • 12 Jan - England- Manchester - Manchester University
  • 14 Jan - England - Leeds - Metro University
  • 15 Jan - England - Sheffield - Sheffield University
  • 16 Jan - England - Warwick - Warwick University
  • 18 Jan - England - Cardiff - Cardiff University
  • 19 Jan - England - Bristol - Bristol University
  • 20 Jan - England - Oxford - Oxford Brookes University
  • 21 Jan - England - Leicester - De Montford University
  • 23 Jan - England - Norwich - UEA Norwich
  • 24 Jan - England - London - London Astoria

Prime Cuts Discussing The Tour

Scratch Perverts member Prime Cuts later said of the tour:

"...that was great. That was really encouraging for us because we went into that thing not really knowing how we'd be received. We got seen by a lot of people who probably wouldn't have come to a gig where there'd be scratching and stuff. All the other bands were traditional bands. You had a band like Delakota who weren't like a rock outfit, but they were a band. Even though a lot of their music is studio based, when they go out, they go out live and they have a full on eight-piece band. The band that was on just before us was Idle Wild, these guys from Scotland who are really full on, four-piece rock outfit. Really, really full on. Mad energy, mad moshing going on in the crowd and stuff. And on the first few nights we'd see this and think 'Fucking hell, how are they going to react to us waddling on with a load of turntables? Are they going to like it?' Well they loved it, they really loved it. And they loved the singles routines that me and Tony did within it. The finale is me doing a drum that gradually gets faster and faster and faster, and then we drill and that's the end of it, and everyone went bananas. So it's good for us because it sends a message to us as well of, 'Oh right, these kids are into this. They're open minded and like the idea of scratching and find it exciting on a live level.' Now we've got to try and take it and do what we want to do, which is a Scratch Perverts LP, but do it without disappearing up our own arses."[3]


Glasgow Review from Unkle77 fan website

"NKLE made their live UK debut on Sunday night as the NME tour kicked off in Glasgow. Mowax boss, James Lavelle, was joined by the Scratch Perverts for a DJ set which featured material from last year's 'Psyence Fiction' album. DJ Shadow, though, is not involved - which upset some of the crowd at the Queen Margaret's Union.

Radio 1's Robert Nisbet was there and said despite the crowd's reservations, it looked visually stunning: "It was a multimedia extravaganza - there were layered back projections, it was exactly what you'd expect from James Lavelle, very high-tech".

He said some of the crowd's expectations were a little unrealistic: "You have to say that there were other people in the audience who were expecting Thom Yorke and Richard Ashcroft, who were also involved in the 'Psyence Fiction' project, to turn up as well. And I have to say that the Scratch Perverts, Prime Cuts and Tony Vegas did do an excellent job".

And James Lavelle told Radio 1 it was clear from the outset that DJ Shadow wouldn't be involved: "People would maybe ultimately like to see him there but it hasn't been presented that he was going to be there in the first place so I think it's irrelevant to what this show's meant to be"."[4]

Oxford Review from Muzik March 1999

"James Lavelle's trip hop odyssey translated in thrilling live scratchathon. Three men. six turntables. 4,560,806 scratches. And one pair of exceedingly thick spectacles. Introducing UNKLE live. Not that live, actually. Make no mistake about this: precisely none of the megastars who contributed to "Psyence Fiction", James Lavelle and DJ Shadow's collision of hip hop, vanity and marketing from last year, could make it to tonight's performance. So no Richard Ashcroft wringing the last teardrop of despair from "Lonely Soul". And no Thom Yorke, Ian Brown, Mike D. Badly Drawn Boy. Alison Temple or Kool G Rap either. And, most significantly, no DJ Shadow, whose architectural samplescapes are the project's very lifeblood. No. UNKLE live consists simply of James Lavelle and Scratch Perverts First Rate and Tony Vegas

DJing the records of " Psyence Fiction " . On decks, one after the other. With scratches and stuff. Perhaps you'd agree that just as "Psyence Fiction" was less the groundbreaking magnum opus it clearly wanted to be and rather the product of a fat contact book and a big advertising spend, there's good reason to be suspicious of the concept of UNKLE live.

Perhaps you'd also be surprised to discover that UNKLE's ninth ever live gig is little short of a brilliantly executed, inventive and possibly revolutionary performance, principally because Lavelle's three man crew manage to synchronise the various talents of a live band and a DJ set. The gathered get what they want, regardless of the manner of delivery. They hear UNKLE's better moments cut up. scratched, improved upon, revised and remixed with a flexibility impossible to achieve were the respective singers actually in attendance.

So when Ian Brown's disembodied vocal spooks through the venue as Lavelle drops "Be There", the crowd erupts into applause. When, two minutes later, Tony Vegas deconstructs the track into a thousand micro-scratches, tf e masses react with an energy and enthusiasm that seems inappropriate to such serious-mind< )d music.

It's a similar story with an in >anely upbeat, timestretched "Drums Of Death' , an explosive "Nursery Rhyme" and even the parting shot, the Thom Yorke-led " Rabbit In Your Hee dlights" , which provokes the kind of response usuc lly reserved for World Cup Final matches or Labour election victories. Fearing pandemoniun, the security nervously eye the emergency exits.

And so what started from a highly suspect, if not downright dishonest position, ends up not only vindicating the lofty claims Lavelle has made for his music, but proves also that the art of DJing is capable of mounting a credible chc llenge against the hegemony of the traditional ban|l format on the live circuit.

Convinced? For a better understanding of "Psyence. you're strongly advised to check out its appliance."[5]

Liverpool Review from NME.com

"The man from UNKLE flings 12 inches of vinyl into the crowd and slopes off. His parting gift is pounced on by impeccably-trainered young things, baying for more. The floor is sticky, faces are flushed, and one thing is clear. There may be two distinct musical cultures sharing a venue tonight, but it's nice to see the international language of fuck, yeah! being understood by all.

People in expensive skate gear waiting for UNKLE are rapt, as though understanding, finally, that the euphoria of punk rock is the same thing as the rush of a breakbeat pile-up. Which is exactly what happens, in reverse, when Idlewild fans linger on at the back and watch three blokes play some records. It's hard to account for the awe that's inspired tonight by grown men destroying vinyl copies of 'Psyence Fiction' in pursuit of widdly noises, but UNKLE's set - Mo'Wax boss James Lavelle mixing, Scratch Perverts Tony Vegas and Prime Cuts on two decks either side - is amazing. Richard Ashcroft's disembodied vocal floats in the air as a hailstorm of beats and DJ Shadow mood-pieces descends, then is lost in a blizzard of speed-of-sound (or should that be the sound of speed?) scratching. A similar scenario unfolds with 'Rabbit In Your Headlights', and the as-yet unreleased Ian Brown track, 'Be There'. But instead of marking a soulless, postmodern experience (no instruments, no flesh and blood, just technicians and the ghost in the machine) UNKLE's attempt to prove that turntables are just as exciting as, y'know, guitars, pays off in full. People are cheering for, pogoing to scratching. A boy in an Ian Brown (circa '89) shirt may actually be babbling. An understanding, of sorts, has been reached."[6]

London Astoria Review on NME.com

"There's a buzz of anticipation. IAN BROWN is here, apparently, but is THOM YORKE? And is that skinny weird bloke over there RICHARD ASHCROFT? Shit, it's too crowded to tell.

UNKLE arrive, James Lavelle and Scratch Perverts, sitting at their decks like NASA mission controllers, a barrage of graphics projected on the screen behind them.

They work their way through most of 'Psyence Fiction', the sound tailored for a live set, with the voices of Thom Yorke and the music of DJ Shadow drifting around the ether.

Then the voice of Ian Brown starts on the tape. Aw shit, maybe he's just there at the gig for the crack (as in, conversation and entertainment, not as in freebase cocaine, you understand). Suddenly a man in a white coat who looks like a fucking star walks onto the stage. Direct from Her Majesty's Pleasure and all that, Ian Brown breeezes through 'Be There'. Memories of Reading '96 are quickly dispelled and something of the rock and roll sex-quasar from Ally Pally '89 or Spike Island shines through.

It's a great rock and roll moment, the equivalent of a fireworks display."[7]


Part of the Astoria performance was recorded, and later broadcast in the UK on Channel Four as part of their NME Premier Shows program.[8] An audio recording was also played on the radio[9]

In 2021 an audio recording from the Sheffield University show was uploaded by UNKLE to their Mixcloud page.[10]


External Links

Video of Be There at the Astoria from the NME Awards broadcast

Audio recording of Astoria performance on YouTube

Sheffield University show on Mixcloud

Ticket Stub for Jan 11 1999

Article with pictures of Glasgow show