Review of Leftfield ‘Leftism’ at Bluedot festival, by Nicholas Mai

“Come on Tom, let’s go and see some prop­er music”.

And so the uncer­tain eight-year(ish) old boy duti­ful­ly fol­lows his father into the tent where Left­field are warm­ing up the crowd nice­ly as the first of the big name open­ing Fri­day acts at this year’s Blue­dot fes­ti­val at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire. There’s a light smat­ter­ing of cor­po­rate brand­ing from Ama­zon under the can­vas too – the online behe­moth are the ones ‘Proud­ly Pre­sent­ing’ this par­tic­u­lar gig; the con­nec­tion isn’t huge­ly explic­it as to why the spon­sor­ship of this late addi­tion to the line­up, until you realise the com­mer­cial attrac­tion of the con­tent. Fright­en­ing­ly – for this review­er – their debut album ‘Left­ism’ is 22 years young this year and cur­rent­ly enjoy­ing the usu­al Expand­ed Edi­tion re-release we’ve come to expect else­where from rock acts in their twi­light. For fans of dance music and also a good por­tion of this crowd it’s wor­thy of such re-eval­u­a­tion and to hear in full once more as it’s being played here tonight.

In 1995 Left­field­’s Neil Barnes and Paul Daley seem­ing­ly rose with aplomb to the chal­lenge and crit­i­cism from the sniffi­er end of the spec­trum of the music press, who main­tained that Dance was a genre that could and would only pro­duce one-hit won­ders. The ravers white-gaunt­let was laid down with ‘Left­ism’, a long-play­er that wil­ful­ly spanned and stretched the def­i­n­i­tion of dance music. It did­n’t sim­ply and obvi­ous­ly rely on Teu­ton­ic 4/4 beats as it encom­passed trip-hop, ambi­ent and dance­hall reg­gae influ­ences to pro­vide a sound­track not only to a club­bers night out but also the (dread­ed) morn­ing after back at your – or some ran­dom’s – home. The come up and come down if you will. The album crossed to the main­stream and paved the way for a whole gen­er­a­tion of dance pro­duc­ers to become ful­ly fledged album ‘artists’ – Faith­less, Groove Arma­da, Roni Size, Base­ment Jaxx, The Chem­i­cal Broth­ers, Moby – all now house­hold names with mul­ti-plat­inum sell­ing and crit­i­cal­ly acclaimed album releases.

And so here we have misty-eyed ravers search­ing and yearn­ing for anoth­er one of ‘those’ moments, along­side your aver­age fes­ti­val goer who recog­nis­es the odd tune from an advert back in the day, or who had the CD nes­tled between Oasis and Blur in their col­lec­tion. Rather than just twid­dling knobs, Left­field – now sans Daley who only in recent years left to pur­sue solo projects – are aid­ed and abet­ted in a live set­ting by (90s gasp!) prop­er musi­cians and a ros­ter of guest vocal­ists, set against a back­drop of now syn­ony­mous pro­jec­tions and lasers.

So we get a set that encom­pass­es the pound­ing house of Black Flute; break­beat of Orig­i­nal and Song 3000 along­side a dub-influ­enced Inspec­tion (Check One); and, well, Afro beats on Afro Left; through to the mel­low bleeps and acid squelch­es of Melt. If proof were fur­ther need­ed that Dance has ful­ly matured to be Rock music’s smi­li­er broth­er and give a real sense of com­par­ing con­ven­tions, we also get an encore. The band’s break­through and bona-fide hit Open Up. It’s pos­i­tive­ly thun­der­ous and there’s a will-he/­won’t he antic­i­pa­tion before the snarling vocal of John Lydon kicks in (unfor­tu­nate­ly he did­n’t, it was the only pre-record­ed vocal ele­ment of the gig). The track hits the mark as the tent bounces again in uni­son; yet like many oth­er tunes here tonight there’s more to be found beneath the aur­al sur­face, with lyrics that still have bite and pre­science. This rel­e­vance and sense of an album and band that were and still are the sound of the future is car­ried right through to the clos­ing of 21st Cen­tu­ry Poem, a spo­ken-word ambi­ent piece that top­i­cal­ly and poignant­ly asks “how many dreams ter­rorised, til we rise… how many homes set alight, til we fight”.

Mean­while, Tom is leav­ing the tent hav­ing final­ly descend­ed from his dad’s shoul­ders, wide of eyes and grin that sug­gest it was the per­fect way to end a hard week at school. Prop­er music indeed.

Thanks to Paul Bell for his Face­book comment: 

Left­ism’ is as fresh as the day it first hit the streets. I still lis­ten to it reg­u­lar­ly. Left­field, for me, are the gold stan­dard against which I mea­sure all oth­er club/dance acts. All three of their albums are just bril­liant and they aren’t scared to give em’ a go live. I caught them at the Dance Are­na at the Exit Fes­ti­val in Ser­bia a cou­ple of years ago. All the oth­er acts, like Hard­well, came across like rank ama­teurs in com­par­i­son. Just luv em .……”

Blue­dot fes­ti­val, Cheshire. Review: Blue­dot fes­ti­val review

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *