Live Review: DJ Fresh, Rock City (2/11/12)

If there was one word that could describe DJ Fresh at the moment, it would be this: hype. Described as one of the forerunners in engineering a crossover of mainstream and drum n bass and dub step, he is one of the most popular dance acts of the moment. You could see it in the sprawling queue that lined Talbot Street, leading to Rock City on 2nd November. DJ fresh has two number one singles and is a staple of many Nottingham students’ regular nights out; now he had arrived to Nottingham.

It was hard not to feel a sense of this hype once inside, with many of the crowd dancing in the enthused, but slightly off balanced way that you might see on an average night out at Crisis or Ocean. There was certainly an emphasis on keeping this energy up with support acts playing one after the other with seemingly no break in between London MC Maxta‘s energetic grime and Derby-based Drumsound & Bassline Smith’s palpitating DJ set.

By the time the main entertainment came, the crowd was alive with a buzz. DJ Fresh then launched into a set that proved his staying power, as well as his ability to bring previously more obscure dance genres to a mainstream audience. Accompanied by a fully fledged band, he pleased the crowd with his popular hits and covers of well-known songs, in which he incorporated his own drum n bass/dubstep spin.

The presence of a live band, which included a guitarist, drummer, signer and MC, was intended to bring a new level of excitement and a form of authenticity, something that is perhaps difficult for an all electronic act. The former was definitely true – a greater sense of engagement could be felt amongst the audience when singing along to an actual vocalist and responding to the pacey MC. However, there were points, particularly with Fresh’s own material, when you couldn’t help but wonder what input the guitarist and drummer had, as the live renditions of singles such as ‘Gold Dust’ and ‘The Power’ sounded almost identical instrumentally to their recorded versions.

Their presence was felt most in the covers, such as their renditions of Coldplay’s ‘Paradise’, which brought a welcome mellow break to the heady exhilaration of the evening; and The White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’, where the reliance on the guitar in the original allowed the guitarist to step out of the shadows. Perhaps Fresh had carried out his set in this way to meet his audience’s expectations of his tracks that they knew so well, but there was something not quite right when the covers had more authenticity during a live experience than the original material.  Though, the highlight and finale, his first number one ‘Louder’, contained a satisfying nod towards the acoustic, BBC Live Lounge rendition of the song with the singer and guitarist starting it with a quiet and subdued first verse.

The enjoyment of the evening seemed to depend on your expectations. If you wanted to hear almost-perfect copies of the Fresh’s hits that you might hear on your usual Nottingham night out then you would have had the time of your life. However, if you came hoping for a more genuine performance, then you would have come away with a slight dull feeling of broken promises.

Emily Shackleton

…Emily has been listening to Egyptian Hip Hop – SYH…


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