Gashead's Blog Wonders


Faithless Passing The Baton – The Best Live Band Ever?

From Faithless Passing The Baton

...and then there was Faithless. As many of you may have guessed I tend to spend a lot of my life lurking in CD shops. One day around about the turn of the Millennium I found the CD single of Insomnia by Faithless, full of different mixes, all good improving upon, extending and celebrating the original. Having played it at home I headed straight for Soho's Berwick Street, namely to SelectaDisc as featured on the cover of Oasis' What's The Story, Morning Glory. Sure enough, true to form, they had the first two Faithless albums for around a fiver each. Being SelectaDisc it wasn't the normal versions but the double CD versions with an extra CD of remixes with each. Unlike the usual stuff in the dance genre the second CDs were utterly wonderful creations, different to the original album versions but you didn't ever think "how did they ruin that so, like totally, dude?"

Whenever there was a long car journey they would appear in the glovebox, often played back to back. Their music switched between epics like Insomnia and God Is A DJ (he never looked like a dinner jacket in my church), dreamy instrumentals, Dido featurettes and people like Boy George displaying the quality of the writing with his amazingly passionate vocal.

The word on the street was if ever you went to a festival this was the band to see. Off I toddled to Glastonbury 2005, no Faithless on the line-up, but they were there in spirit every day, often several times a day. From various locations Insomnia would blast out. It might be The Pyramid, The Other or a random stage where the crew loved Faithless and they knew this would a) test their speakers b) draw a crowd. There would be a massive cheer that would often continue spontaneously even where the music that started it wasn't audible. This was the dance song rock fans loved, they were at Glastonbury and Faithless' cathedral was that field in Somerset. I would choke up, often be in tears of joy, excitement, tiredness, the works.

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Then I went to the V Festival in Chelmsford and that was their church as well, usually playing at least every other year. The perfect band for the Essex lads and lassies (we're talking real ones, not London's Jessie J who her publicists tell us is one). The beers were got in, then kicked over by people going crazy underneath a tree by the original V Stage. We Came One, we saw, they conquered.

From V Festival 2008

Brixton Academy was their chapel. A small, intimate venue, Maxi Jazz's manor. Could they kick it there? Too bloody right they could!

Watch this video on YouTube.

Harry Collier would change the dynamic singing the softer songs, sharing vocals with Maxi who is even older than me and allowing them to overcome any mid-set tedium. The festival classics were as intact as ever but you knew they had soul, romance, beautiful sounds and big fuck off bass at the turn of a knob. They had everything.

As somebody old enough to be my father I have been insanely excited this last week. Originally I booked the Thursday only as I have granddaughter commitments on Fridays, she was at the previous Brixton gig with her mate, they loved it but this was over-18s only for the Friday. Then a message from Faithless appeared on Twitter. This was their last tour, the dance would never end but the shows would. Straight onto Seetickets, got two more standing for the Friday. Told everybody at work, amazing apathy, OK you have a nice drive to a country carvery on Sunday in your Nissan Micra, Werthers in the glovebox, Vicky and I are off to see British culture at its highest level.

But what to wear? This is never usually a problem for me, trainers, trousers and a cool T shirt under that zipped top black jacket containing my precious camera. The strategy was dress straight Thursday, take all the pictures and videos I needed, stand at the back if necessary for some undistorted sound recordings and take it calm for Friday was the long one. It had been a tough week at work having been to see Big Audio Dynamite for a relaxing Sunday evening before..yeah. Only trouble was the moment we walked into the stalls the sight of the band, the wonderful full on sound, the obviously up for it crowd...within ten minutes we had shimmied beyond the disabled seating, the gents' loos and found ourself on the front barrier, my remaining hair strands moving from the wind the bass speakers were pumping out. This was OUR church and the hymns were fantastic, the organ sound beautiful, the priest dressed in white a tad fervent with his chief choirboy Harry.

From Faithless, Brixton Academy Penultimate Gig 07/04/2011

OK, so a quieter evening it wasn't to be but I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.

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As you can gather I had this strong sense of religion about Faithless, their name, the songs God Is A DJ and Salva Mea, OK Vicky should go as a nun and I could cut a dash in a cardinal's garb or maybe even the big boss The Pope. But hang on. Sister Bliss on keyboards...mind working overtime...we can be The Sisters Of Bliss! And so it came to pass, in the land they called Brixton, on a Friday in April, two nuns appeared perilously close to 9pm ready to take to the altar. Thanks to a fancy dress shop in Berwick Street, Freeport M&S and a strange website with some exciting packages we looked the part.

From Faithless Passing The Baton

Everybody loves a nun, at least they do at concerts. I thought everybody else was dressing up, it seemed not. Security was a breeze, normally men search men, women search women, the poor chap was too embarrassed to get anywhere near discovering my Oyster and ticket were down the front of my knickers! We went in down the right, everybody said hello or stared, we held our hands up in prayer before Sister Bliss...I think she must have been too busy playing some silly music to spot us!

So off down to the favoured left hand side and there we remained, 3 bodies from the front progressively shuffling across towards the centre whenever some of the more exuberant crowd members gave up the dance for the bar or quite possibly the loo. What an evening, as they played beyond midnight it just got better and better, the crowd crazier and crazier.

Watch this video on YouTube.

There was much passion either side of the barrier, the whole cathedral rocked but everybody knew this was the night Faithless would ride off into the sunset to play live no more, but they weren't giving up with a whimper.

From Faithless Passing The Baton

Around 1am the time came, no matter how much we shared the love through the medium of raised fingers, dodgy dance and the language of whoop woo, it all ended...for the time being. Faithless have brought so much joy to so many people. Loved by the rock crowd, sometimes shunned by the more elite drum hard heavy semi-detached house brigade, only the hardest of hearts could fail to be thrilled by that old school chunky organ that they used to up the odds and subjugate the masses to their heavy, heavy monster sound. You have been loved but the dance never ends...

Watch this video on YouTube.