Not having graced our shores since 2011, Perth was more than ready for Leftfield’s return, selling out the show months in advance. But a lot has changed since their last festival appearance with Neil Barnes now running the outfit solo as former partner-in-crime Paul Daley left the group to concentrate on his own solo album and DJ career.
Having completed back to back gigs crossing Oceania in around five days, (landing Friday in New Zealand, then Sydney, Melbourne and finally Perth), the lads themselves must have been resonating before their gig at the Chevron Festival Gardens on Tuesday night.
Stepping into the open air arena you could feel the adrenaline. There was a mad buzz all over the place. Like rock stars, or as I was to find out later, futuristic Shaman, Leftfield took the stage to massive crowd appreciation and quickly disappeared into the darkness of their rigs. Barnes front and centre behind digital drums, keyboards, microphone and laptop, a live drummer positioned to his left with full kit, and long-term studio engineer, Adam Wren, to his right with laptop and audio controllers.
Out of the darkness a giant screen lit up like the sun, drawing the gaze of the crowd as if a portal was opening to another dimension. With the warmth of the sound waves taking over, we embarked on what could be described as a spiritualistic journey of pulsating electronic immersion.
Playing six tracks off their latest album Alternative Light Source, the first Leftfield album in 16 years, they showed they’ve still got what it takes to rock a crowd and reinforced their status as pioneers of a style synonymous to few.
Treading through the waves of “Bad Radio” with Barnes like an alien leader on the vocoder, (in place of Tunde Adebimpe), “Universal Everything”, with its steady hypnotic progression and the folding rolling, technoscape of “Little Fish”, it felt like waking up in the Matrix when the militant beats of “6/8 War” came cutting through the floor.
Most of the classics came from the critically acclaimed “Stealth and Rhythm” with guest appearances bringing a breather to the set, from original dub MC Cheshire Cat vocalising “Chant Of A Poor Man”, and dreadlocked singer Ofei, harmonising among the spaced, fuelled bleeps and haunting robotics of “Swords”.
Raising the heat, and the tempo, they dropped the cosmic acid hit “Space Shanty” off their 1995 debut album, Leftism, then continued to increase the pressure with “Alternative Light Source” before building the night to a charging crescendo on “Shaker Obsession”.
Leaving the crowd with hands in the air and feet literally stomping the hard wooden floor, the lads returned to the stage to finish off what they started. Lifting the vibe once again, the finale came with the tribal rhythms of “Song Of Life”, “Storm’s End” and “Phat Planet”.
Luckily there was no ceiling at this venue as the sound system was thumping. Mixed with an amazing syncopated light display and mind-bending visuals, the show was a thrilling experience, not only for the ears but also the mind, body and soul.