Basement Jaxx - Wolverhampton Civic Hall
Surely the turn of a new decade should see a new rule established that popular dance acts should not be allowed to play gigs on Sunday nights in December? Everyone knows the Fridays and Saturdays of the festive season are booked long in advance with Christmas work dos and all sorts of alcohol-related shenanigans, leaving Sundays open for the day-long hangovers of regret, woe and heads that feel like they've been twisted clean off. No-one told Basement Jaxx - or perhaps they simply felt that their brand of celebratory party material would be excessive enough to beat sore heads into submission? Points for trying, guys.
Although a promised Speech Debelle support slot never transpires (no clear explanation on the night to clarify either), fine support is provided by a nameless DJ who gets the venue's eager crowd moving with some choice cuts to compliment the main act. Alas, I stand at the back nursing my weekend's over-consumption and self-pity (they're related) but I still appreciate the peaks of a fine DJ set that has everyone from a moonwalking ten year-old to a lone grey-haired female hippy pulling distinct shapes all around me.
The music lets up for only a brief interlude before the Jaxx experience begins. I use the word 'experience' with reckless abandonment, because opener Scars is just the pinnacle of a 90 minute audio-visual sensory overload that is both nourishing and sadly lost on a version of me that has already been loaded to capacity in the past 48 hours. With two of the lead female vocalists entering in green robes, Simon and Felix unassumedly take to their positions to provide their ladies with a dark tribal funk enhanced by animated visuals of what appear to be alien ants charging upon us on massive screens behind the band setup. Wowed by this initial shot of 'woah, what the fuck was that?' - straight to the veins via both ear canal and optic nerve - the robes come off and a veil-clad bride is suddenly belting out the soulful tirade of Good Luck, causing the dancing from my fellow gig-goers to rightfully become even less restrained.
The party is rarely below fourth gear after this initial blast of an intro. Red Alert, Jus 1 Kiss and a wildly fun Do Your Thing are all over familiar but exciteable enough to remind us why they charmed the charts as they did. Felix swaps his synths and decks for vocodered vocals on the euphoric Raindrops, taken from new album Scars, while buddy Simon provides guitars as on old friend Rendez Vu. They are joined by musicians ranging from a percussionist/drummer, brass player and, at one highly surreal moment, an unknown in Michael Myers mask and orange boiler suit riffing away on electric guitar for a rocked-up take on Plug It In. While the backing players and duo themselves provide the lifeblood of the show, it's their motley crew of vocalists that have the job of entertaining.
At points, that old standby 'too many cooks...' might pop into your head but you'll soon tut at yourself for criticising the manpower of a show thats primary function is to be just that: a show. Having the two female vocalists who flash their knickers at us during Oh My Gosh (this is surely what Beyonce envisioned when she coined the term 'bootylicious') joined by a female MC/singer dressed as a giant sunflower, a male MC who turns Jump N Shout into an almost vicious command, and a white-soul boy in skeleton unitard and with a variation of OCD is where the show draws its energy and undeniable power. Whether performing solo or in a variety of combos, they bring an earthiness and likeability that has given Simon and Felix a face - or variety of them, if you will. With Scars being an album relying heavily on guest vocal spots, they're more essential than ever; for every Twerk, a prime party popper with the gals trading places with Yo! Majesty, there's a Saga, which sounds merely like a Santigold cast-off without the appearance of, well, Santigold herself. Highlight Feelings Gone, which is transformed into a loungey interval halfway through, could even make skeleton boy a star a la Daniel Merriweather via Ronson, as he casts off the shackles of being a stand-in for Sam Sparro and showcases a voice that is on a par.
Despite the vocal variety providing verve, what is perhaps most surprising is when we're left alone with Simon and Felix on decks at the tail-end. Letting their techno-tinged glitchy beats pound us into a wilful submission (I'm standing still, arms crossed of course, wishing this was a Friday night), they remind us who the ringleaders of this carnival are. For the type of finale usually reserved for festivals, one final full-on treat is served up with Where's Your Head At's dizzying singalong only heightened by the pandemonium onstage, featuring pandas and bears (peeps in suits of course, although the real deal wouldn't be a huge stretch) and providing one wild finish to one wild show. Just please, please, please reserve the winter wildness for a Friday or Saturday next Christmas, boys.