F*ck Buttons - Live At Kentish Town Forum, London

Like the end of Bottom during a massive earthquake? Sure…

At first listen you could be forgiven for considering F*ck Buttons as “not everyone’s cup of tea”. But three albums in (the latest reviewed here), with critical acclaim from some quite surprising areas of the mainstream press, they’ve built a large following – and the Kentish Town Forum is more tightly packed than Clash has seen it in some time.

It’s all too easy for electronic acts like this duo to be underwhelming live. When the performance on stage essentially amounts to two men bobbing gently either side of a table, it’s unclear whether this will be enough to keep a crowd engaged for an hour-plus.

But any fears are swiftly forgotten as ‘Stalker’ blasts the crowd with a tidal wave of sub-bass synth that makes your hair follicles tingle. Live, F*ck Buttons have a chance to present the audience with the physicality in their music, and the crowd duly cheers with abandon at each new layer of sound in the same way the audience bellowed at Marti Pellow miming a key change on Top Of The Pops.  

While it’s true that the cynic could question how ‘live’ a performance like F*ck Buttons’ truly is, the visual cues shared between these two give away how their whole set is held together by split second timing and coordination.

Minimal screen projections are an excellent counterpoint to the dense, busy music. With Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power’s projected silhouettes becoming part of the visuals, they turn the whole ‘knob-twiddler in the shadows’ cliché on its head, being cast 15-feet tall in the process. The end result is not unlike like watching the end credits of Bottom during a massive earthquake.

‘Olympians’ takes on a new lease of life tonight, the rather mellow mood of its recorded version becoming crushing in a setting like this, while ‘Flight Of The Feathered Serpent’ has Clash surrounded by people with their eyes closed and arms aloft: lost in the bass-heavy moment.

Old-school mic’d up instruments even make an appearance during ‘Colours Move’ in the form of, er... one drum. It seems a little tokenistic, when what could be a primitive moment of tribal euphoria, tapping into the roots of our DNA, simply falls a little flat. But that’s really the only noticeably weak moment in a set that’s remarkably consistent in the aural battering it offers.

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Words: James Barry
Photos: Rachel Lipsitz (website)

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