Losing my Religionby Karlito Sittlinger, images by Cristoph Lenz / 10.02.2011
So when a blast from the past comes your way, something as formative in my generation’s youth as Faithless with the almost iconic Maxi Jazz and his distinctive physical and vocal characteristics, you cannot help but to mentally return to a time where music was still much more original, and the stars actually had something to contribute that was new and innovative.
Lets start with the infrastructure and the venue, as these things have such a strong effect on the experience and are often neglected, as was the case for this concert. The Grand West Arena is not really the type of venue that will render you speechless in awe of the surroundings. And it definitely wasn’t geared to catering for such a large influx of fans in such a short span of time. For reasons beyond me, the only way to get into the actual Arena was through the casino complex. Maybe they thought we’d have a little run on the roulette wheel before the gig? Standing in line for ages to get past the security measures, which were rendered completely ineffectual by the sheer mass of hurrying fans. I basically walked through the metal detector, all the metal items in my pocket rewarded with loud beeping sounds, but before I could be stopped the next 15 fans had already swept me away. The outer passages of the arena was like a practical joke from the organizers: a couple of small bar areas and a handful of bar staff were being overwhelmed by a swarm of beverage begging fans. It was in fact so bad, that it was basically impossible to procure any kind of drinks without missing a substantial block of the concert.
Drinks or no drinks, you then needed to pass the ticket trinity in front of each door: One guard would take your ticket and tear a stub off, another right next to him/her would then accept the stub to give you one of those concert bracelets, while the last would check whether you actually have a bracelet before letting you in.
Goldfish managed to get people into the swing of things, the crowd was easily swayed into a good vibe early on. The perfect sashimi style introduction to the main event. Of course we weren’t part of all that. We got to argue with security and bouncers, organizers and other people that felt they were in charge. We heard some of the Goldfish set through the doors and it sounded pretty good. By the time we finally made it inside, we were both dehydrated and irritated but just in time to hear the final chords and watch Goldfish professionally pack their stuff away.
Generally speaking, concerts are there to enhance your experience of music you already know, and it has become an expectation that you get treated to more than just a list of songs that you have heard before. This holds especially true for bands as well known as Faithless, where every song has been overplayed in all sorts of situations and remixed relentlessly. Their catalogue, literally, can’t get no sleep. The large stage was filled with batteries of independently controlled lighting, enhanced by a huge screen as a background to the band. The lighting concepts perfectly synchronized to compliment the sound really highlighted a good track list. We were treated to songs from all the albums and as expected, the true classics all had a unique twist to them, making sure though that they were all still recognizable and bombastic in their full glory.
When “Insomnia”, “We want more”, “God is a DJ” and “What about Love” were played, the audience, truly, went insane. A sea of arms chanting rhythmically to these timeless dance hymns. I found myself being swept away in that amazing feeling. When a song is building up to the crescendo, unifying everyone to a single joyous emotion, even if it is nostalgic, it still makes the concert more than just a list songs repeated by the band.
Ahh and then there was the one and only Maxi Jazz, giving what can only be described as a fully engaged performance, speaking to his crowd in words and music, preaching unity amongst the people of South Africa, and the crowd responding vigorously. His arms spread to an open embrace at the height of the songs, harsh yet elegant and effective in combo with the music.
The stage was doused in hues of green and red, supported by an amazing huge screen depicting almost retro blocky graphics, synchronized to the songs. I must admit I was awed by the variance and effect these simple geometric forms and words added to the whole experience. Kudos and salutations for the stage and lighting team, of what must have been one of the better stage shows I have witnessed.
Despite the birthing issues, we got a good two hours of high class entertainment, the whole concert ended with the appropriate “We want More”.
*All images © Christoph Lenz.