The Astor Theatre
Friday, February 6, 2015
Seminal Manchester trip hop duo Lamb have followed a unique path. Their unique and inspired fusion of drum ‘n’ bass beats, jazz sensibilities, orchestral electronica and gorgeous vocals was ahead of its time and hugely influential in electronic music, and was most brilliantly exemplified on their all-time classic track, Gorecki.
With the release of their sixth album late last year, and news of a world tour, it seems Lamb are well and truly back. It’s been six years since they’ve visited us, and a solid crowd of dedicated fans turned up at Astor to find out if they still cut it live – the answer was a resounding ‘Yes!’
Olympia started the night off with some appropriately grand sounds; the project of Melbourne based singer/songwriter Olivia Bartley, whose honeyed vocals captivated the room. Performing as a one woman band, her majestic songs resonated with the crowd.
After a short break, the lights went down and Lamb took the stage to a resounding cheer, kicking off with In Binary, the killer opening track off their new album, Backspace Unwind. The tweakin’ acid funk number with a driving vocal hook is classic Lamb, but updated with some edgier sounds.
In a one, two punch they followed immediately with second track from the album, and first single, the beautiful We Fall In Love.
Looking amazing in a long, flowing white dress with cape, thin black belt and plunging neckline, wearing a low hung medallion, Lou Rhodes commanded attention centre stage with her elegance, grace and phenomenal voice. It’s hard to believe she recently turned 50.
In contrast to the serene Rhodes, the younger Andy Barlow was a fist-pumping ball of energy behind his arsenal of synths and controllers, acting more like a superstar DJ than the timid eyes down producer type.
For this tour, they were joined by their long time collaborator, double bassist extraordinaire Jon Thorne. Playing all the intricate basslines live on his upright fretless bass, he switched between plucking frantically at the strings and stroking them with a bow, demonstrating his virtuosity.
Lamb really are one of those acts that sound better live than on record, with so much energy and an amazing presence. There is a magical aura about Rhodes, she seems in another world at times as she slinks around stage, shining in the darkness like some bright, white goddess.
B Line sounded amazing with the deep, fluid sounds of the live bass. A more loose version with scatty vocals. Cheeky Andy got on the mic again to inform us they’d be in the foyer after the show. “We’ll be outside signing breasts. Me. Not Lou,” he laughed, “Anyway, let’s have a d’n’b track shall we?” which was the cue for the classic jungle stylings of God Bless from their self-titled debut.
They ended the set proper on the epic sounds of Seven Sails which climaxed in a percussive, strobe-soaked, bass throbbing haze.
They were soon back on. What Sound was up first and saw Barlow move to the live drum kit and beat the crap out of it, as Rhodes also was banging on a tom up front. The opening piano chords of Gorecki was all the crowd needed to set them off. After the initial cheers subsided, there was a hush as all those in attendance hung on every delicately sung syllable, gently swaying. Sounding as amazing and lush as ever, it was something of an emotional, transcendental moment as the breakbeat kicked in and the crowd moved as one. While that could easily have been enough, they chose to finish on the more bombastic Trans Fatty Acid. After rapturous applause, everyone, band included, left the venue with smiles on their faces, buzzing, knowing they’d just witnessed something very special.