Faithless - Wolverhampton Civic Hall
It almost seemed lazy when Faithless announced their new album, which landed in the charts at Number Two earlier this month, would be entitled The Dance. However, their show in Wolverhampton makes it clear that no other title could be so apt or concise. After a hiatus of two or three years, the dance favourites still look like an odd proposition on paper but it's clear that the Faithless faithful are going strong; the transgenerational audience suggests the youngsters raving to Reverence back in the mid-90s have passed on their taste in trance/house/rap hybrids to their offspring, as teeny tiny girls kitted out in glowsticks walk past me hand in hand with mommy and daddy. And, no matter what age, every single reveller stood in the Civic on this Thursday evening end up sharing in one thing: The Dance.
The night's festivities begin with Happy, a vibrant track from the new album, but it's not until Maxi Jazz - as charismatic as ever throughout - announces 'This is my church' three songs in that the feet really begin to move and detach from the ground. God is a DJ is one of those Faithless tracks even your nan will know, and it's one of a handful of iconic singles around which the setlist is shaped. At the halfway mark, Insomnia proves another of these moments and its centrepiece solo synth riff is met with one of the most rapturous audience reactions I've ever witnessed. In between the big-hitters, newbies from the album - such as the soulful, Blancmange-sampling Feel Me and comeback monster Not Going Home - intertwine with other memorable moments from the back catalogue, including a fiery and especially gratifying Weapons of Mass Destruction, resulting in a rounded set that brings the party to Wolves and is never at risk of losing the attention of afficionados, booze-soaked groups of lads, and chaperoned ten-year-old girls joined in the throng.
Always one of the most impressive aspects of a Faithless show is how well absent Rollo's studio versions translate to a live setting. As stated, Maxi is just cool, the only man who can still look chilled even if he's jumping up and down like an amped-up Duracell bunny, but he's got competition in the cool stakes: sure, Kate Nash might be cute but she doesn't look as fierce as Sister Bliss does behind the keys. Simultaneously sexy and classy behind a bank of synths, her fingerwork lifts the songs to their euphoric heights and is always a highlight of the full band tapestry. Special mention must go to the stetson-doting lady on drums and percussion, whose impressive work drives the dance and brings the beating heart of the music alive in a primal way. Props to the amazing lightshow backdrop too, by the by, which really does add another element to the production. When all the elements really gel, it can result in a transcendatory moment like Salva Mea, which sees a joyous and jumping audience happy to indulge such shameless yet seamless sonic shapeshifting.
By the time the encore arrives, the sea of bodies in the Civic are just that: a sea. There's a lot of sweat going on, ya see. I'd always pegged Faithless as a band who would work best in a festival setting (and that may still be true) but, as Muhammad Ali throws a final punch, it's made clear that their setup works just as well in a darkened dance hall. We Come 1's last hurrah is a blast from the past that still feels vital today, and it gives the crowd one last chance to forget they've got work - or school - tomorrow and go a little bit mental. To be honest, I went to this gig thinking it would free me up to catch someone else during the band's slot at Glasto but, having not thrown down the big-fish little-fish gauntlet so readily at any other gig this year, I may be frolicking in the mud to Faithless on one Sunday night in June. See you there, young tiny dancers?