Beta Band @ Hammersmith Palais, London (5th October 1999)

I get the distinct impression that the Beta Band are still working out this fame/audience thing. "Beta Band and Friends", said the bumph. Translation: some people they 'know' DJing in 20 minute stints. Until 9.45pm. Somewhat tight methinks, and not an ideal way to make the crowd receptive. When the flexible foursome themselves finally take to the stage, it starts to seem like an even more expensive evening. It's all a bit ramshackle for the first couple of songs, almost as though they're each taking turns to phase out of this particular universe. The visuals on the three screens behind don't help---they're disjointed, irrelevant, and not even particularly pretty or interesting. Add some clear exercise of ego rights and it's not looking good at all. All of a sudden the switch flicks. Everything coalesces, and the attention is instantly fixed as they gloriously shred "Dr Baker". From there on I'm absorbed and slowly reeled in, as it all seems so remarkably fluid and alive in an intriguing way. Sure, sometimes it's a little bit too much---especially when they're coming across as po-faced and wilful---but it remains different and largely good. Shining moments occur and these songs are mostly from the Three EPs period, when they're being less jokey and building something immense---like in "She's The One" and "Inner Meet Me". You have to watch and you have to listen, because they're trying and what they seem to be trying for is some kind of musical freedom. When they use that freedom to pursue some great ideas, it truly shines. They just need to avoid thinking that the freedom is the end result. Nonetheless, applause is deserved. (Drew)
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