Faithless Concert In Boston, September 4, 1997

(at the club Axis on Lansdowne St.)

[my unfinished review...]

The signature sound of the dance hits, 'Salva Mea' and 'Insomnia', and the reputations of producers Rollo and Sister Bliss, have made the U.K. group Faithless well-known among DJs and club-goers in many parts of the world. Since their music is a hybrid of several genres and inhabits its own place between techno and pop, one might be surprised to find that Faithless' first concert on their first ever North American tour was driven not so much by samples and synthesizers, as by the camaraderie of the nine band members on stage. The band's first album, "Reverence", was surveyed during the 50 minute show, including two different arrangements of each of the two companion dance hits. Three of the four core members of Faithless were on stage; Maxi Jazz, the rap voice and often the face of the group; Jamie Catto, the ballad and blues voice; and Sister Bliss at her Korg keyboard. Only Rollo, the fourth core member, was absent, more a behind-the-scenes type. Was he there? I don't know but there were nine people onstage.

The Rollo and Sister Bliss remix of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" was one the DJ spun tunes that mixed right into the band's entrance and opening number. Maxi Jazz spoke for the band at the top of show and kicked off with 'Reverence', from the album of the same name. Funky beats and Maxi's tight, smooth rap delivery led into a funked up version of 'Salva Mea', sexy and dance-able in its r & b way. Maxi's turn as the 'Dirty Old Man' was groovier and heavier than the easy-going ode to lust on the album.

The other performers included two women as backup singers (in Akira t-shirts) stage left in front of Sister Bliss, one woman stage right on a variety of hand drums and hand instruments, one man at the back in the center behind his drum kit, and two men on electronic guitar center stage behind the lead singer's mic. One of the backup singers played a flute during a song. When not singing, Jamie Catto, in his Buddha t-shirt, twiddled knobs and played the keyboard on his Korg Prophecy. Sister Bliss played away on her Korg keyboard instrument and had her moment in the red spotlight during the second playing of Salva Mea, in the original Epic Version, during which she sped the music along to ever greater heights, keyboard-wise and synth-wise.

Over the course of the whole show, songs familiar from the album were cooked up in new, looser and funkier arrangements, teasing a crowd ready to dance to the hits. Rap and blues were served up with electronic dance rhythms and guitars and acoustic instruments.

Maxi Jazz's rap and vocal stylings were a dominant force in concert, featured on eight of the twelve selections. He worked the crowd, connecting emotionally and reaching out and slapping hands, the nerve behind the groove.

Jamie Catto's main turn on the ballad "Don't Leave" had earnest fans ready to sing and dance along. Jamie mentioned that "Don't Leave" would be the next single (presumably in the U.S.). One new non-album dance track was played, that led off with a Jamie's megaphone proclamation of "Come Out With Your Hands In The Air".

'Insomnia' kicked in with the chanted refrain of "I can't get no sleep". Clocks ticked and bells chimed during the sleepless night hours of one man's personal hell. The synth melody was introduced and sped up, only to fall back on itself, then erupted in a desperate ecstasy, a crash into the acid-house drum roll that locked the crowd into a fit of dancing. Snapped out of the spell, Maxi rapped and ruminated over the remains, and then the mad melodic bassline snuck back and caught up everyone in its grip.

Here's the track order:

Salva Mea
Dirty Old Man
Drifting Away (version without soprano vocal intro) [?]
"Come Out With Your Hands In The Air"
Baseball Cap
Don't Leave
Salva Mea


If Lovin' You Is Wrong

September 5, 1997