•• Moby @ Brixton Academy, London, 19 May 2005
•• Published: SoundsXP, May 2005
•• Original article:

Mellowing with age is an inevitable part of life, a fact seemingly exemplified by Moby - going from rave scene kingpin, to critically-savaged thrash metaller, to 'big beat' James Bond theme remixer before blues-meets-chillout career epiphany, 'Play'.

The release of latest album 'Hotel', where samples are dropped in favour of original vocals, appears to continue this trend of winding down, laying back and taking a calmer, more traditional approach. But that only tells half the story; Moby has always been a man of contradiction. Portrayed as a tee-total, religious, eco-centric outcast when involved with the drug-fuelled dance scene, he then embarked on a well-documented journey of debauched rock and roll excess when the sedate tones of 'Play' sold millions worldwide.

Seeing the man also known as Richard Hall live is an equally unpredictable experience as he plays new material alongside selections from a rich back catalogue of rave, rock and downtempo soul. Opener 'Extreme Ways' is followed by a typically euphoric track featuring Laura Dawn's belting diva vocals before his more sensitive side is unveiled with a slow, sleepy, but sluggish, version of 'Natural Blues'. The New Yorker soon atones for this by launching into first hit, 1991's 'Go', with both the crowd and the bongo-bashing Eminemesis going absolutely mental.

Just as dance music is best heard on a crowded dancefloor, downtempo introspection often lends itself better to home listening than expansive concert venues, this means a tender, poignant cover of New Order's 'Temptation', is sadly ignored by much of the chattering crowd. New additions including 'Beautiful', with its upbeat pop charm, and bittersweet torch-song, 'Slipping Away', are strewn amongst familiar favourites including an extended psychedelic take on 'Honey', which is stretched and contorted into a Floyd-esque wig-out.

Moby punctuates the set with frequent, light-hearted anecdotes and ends every song with a customary "Thankyouthankyouthankyou", his gratitude seemingly as genuine as the enjoyment he gets from performing. Ducking, diving and dashing around the stage with the exuberant excitement of a teenager, when it comes to the mesmeric 'I Feel It' the diminutive 39-year-old is unable to contain himself. He charges over to steal control of the keyboards, thumping away manically at the keys.

The encore is a calmer affair with covers of 'Walk On The Wildside' and guitarist Daron Murphy's convincing rendition of The Doors' 'Break On Through' until goosebumps are raised along with the tempo for another old anthem, 'Feeling So Real'. Pounding away at gabba speed with fairground organ chords and cheesy rave samples, this is unashamed white-gloved madness, and forms a superb, breathless end to the night. Moby proves that, while he may appear to be mellowing on the surface, he is certainly not ready for his (peace) pipe and slippers just yet.

- Ian Roullier, 05/2005
Copyright © Ian Roullier 2004-2014