“Boom boom bap. Tap tap tap. That’s the beat of my life” sang The Sweetest Voice. ‘Boom boom thud. Buzz buzz buzz’ sang the onstage monitors. Or at least that’s how Green Gartside heard it. This was pop’s most-infamously stage-shy star staring his demons in the face. “You wonder why I haven’t played for 26 years?” he sighed as another technical glitch left him looking for the exit sign.
And yet, in sharp contrast, for those of us out there in front of him – a loyal band of performance-starved devotees â€“ it sounded quite wonderful, flaws and all. A sublime set of all-new songs bristling with hooks and harmonies. Pure pop with the windows of possibility opened wide.
Ironically, as Green stretched for perfection, the imperfections enhanced the experience. There was something special about hearing a naturally studio-frosted genius via the limitations of a small-venue sound system. The songs seemed somehow more precious because of their bruises. Certainly, for a `band’ whose every step has been an instinctive melting of the barriers between popular music genres it was entirely fitting and quite something to see a brand-new Scritti Politti in the flesh without ceremony and within touching distance.
This was the fourth time that Double G & The Traitorous 3 had played The Luminaire since February and the second that I’ve been lucky enough to witness. Like the gig a month ago, they played most of the tracks from the forthcoming White Bread, Black Beer album. Again, `Robin Hood’ and `Dr. Abernathy’ stood out for me. Both irresistibly fizzy shots of Green’s own-label brand of alt.pop. Green, of course, looked effortlessly cool in his zipped-up tracksuit top. The bassist looked equally cool in her funky minidress. The rest of the band just got on with being the rest of the band in a beautifully laidback yet upfront kinda way.
Spurred on by an audience clearly thrilled to be in on the New Scritti secret, Green’s early self-doubt soon gave way to a natural self-confidence that propelled the set to a rousing rhythmic climax with `Cooking’ and `Edge of Degradation’. They encored with `Robin Hood’ again, then shuffled off with disarming humility. Green even had the grace to acknowledge me when I popped-up later to praise the performance and ask him an obligatory nerdy question â€“ whether `Dr. Abernathy’ was a reference to Martin Luther King’s comrade, Dr. Ralph Abernathy. “No. But I might use that next time” he replied.
Frankly, all he could do with next time is a decent onstage sound-mix from his monitors. If these were songs played by a band unhappy with their sound, I’d love to hear them when they’re happy with it.
Setlist: Boom Boom Bap / Snow In Sun / Robin Hood / After 6 / E11th Nuts / Come Clean / D to the O / Dr. Abernathy / Am I Right In Thinking / Cooking / Edge of Degradation / Robin Hood.
Published with kind permission of Gary Knight.