Small Black @ Sticky Mike’s, Brighton 8/10/13

Posted: 10/10/2013 in Live Review
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Faux Flux are a band with an interesting set up.  Live vocals/guitar with programmed electronics and live drums.  The real beats are the clincher and completely set off the soulful guitar funk and get the heads nodding.  A set highlight is Higher Place.  All half time beats and subby bass, but definitely not dubstep.  You got that?  If anything they get more energised once the guitar is relinquished, when there is more room for the frontman to get his groove on and the synths to do their thing.  Some slightly repetitive moments aside Faux Flux have got the moves and are a perfect choice of support.

There’s always that dread that comes from seeing a laptop on-stage.  That’s quickly forgotten when Birkwin Jersey comes on.  He isn’t satisfied until he gets pretty much every sub-genre of dance music (yes America, ‘dance music’ a decades old term now) aired tonight.  There’s a well-considered learning curve from the glitchy chill-out to the pounding techno at the end, by way of folktronica and fat scuzzy hip-hop. Even squeezing in RnB that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Jill Scott track.  He clearly had a home side in with much cheers and whoops between every song and he got the first proper moves on the dance floor.

Small Black’s recent album Limits of Desire is a brutally nostalgic bit of 80s US pop that has that power to make you harp for a childhood you may not have even had.   Big harmonised choruses and plucked guitar melodies that is dare I say it, very ‘nice’.  So it’s with great curiosity to see how it works live. A meticulously produced album and very slick.  Do they have the sass and verve to carry it off?

As it happens Small Black are a high energy, fully functioning, collaborative unit.  Constantly mixing things up and swapping instruments, never in a showy sixth form way, always for the better of the finely crafted song. There’s the finest on-stage mincing seen since Erasure’s Andy Bell, and the bassist just can’t seem to stay on the stage.

Tuesday night isn’t exactly the most spine-tingling prospect for any band, but sheer gusto and road worn skills win out.  The enthusiasm the audience have is really quite impressive too.  Especially when they pull out the big guns of Only A Shadow and Free At Dawn.  A quick glance about sees that by the final few songs everyone in the venue is dancing.  It’s an atmosphere not unlike a loved-up rave and one reserved for very few guitar bands.

It would be incredible to keep Small Black to ourselves and only in such an intimate setting, but the band have the tools for something so much grander.  Brilliant!


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