Mecury Prize Session: Neneh Cherry, The Horrors & Basement Jaxx
The Mercury Prize Sessions at The Hospital Club in Covent Garden have become something of an institution over the past few years. Filmed live for Channel 4, they showcase both the best up and coming and established bands– many of whom go on to appear as nominees for the Mercury Prize itself (although, despite the name there is no direct link between the two).
The usual format is that 3 bands perform mini-gigs (approx 30 - 45 mins each) which are late edited into separate shows, broadcast on Channel 4 a few weeks later and also made available
online. As a member of the Hospital Club I’ve been lucky enough to attend a fair few of these events over the years and have witnessed some incredible performances from a huge variety of artists, from the likes of Florence & The Machine and James Blake to Magnetic Man and even Primal Scream. For the most recent Session, recorded on 23
rd April, I attended with my SubbaCultcha reviewers hat on and was treated to three fabulous, but very varied sets from Neneh Cherry, The Horrors and Basement Jaxx.
First up was 90’s comeback queen, Neneh Cherry. Since releasing
Blank Project late last year (her first album in over 17 years), Neneh has re-established and re-invented herself as a much more ‘leftfield’ performer than she was known for during her ‘heyday’. Backed by a distinctly modern-sounding cacophony of throbbing beats and basslines, Neneh’s distinctive voice and excellent stage presence was a joy to behold, and if anything these qualities have improved, rather than diminished, despite nearly 2 decades out of the limelight. Bravely and commendably, she also performed exclusively new material, demonstrating a confidence in her new sound, rather than relying on the all too easy fallback of pulling out a ‘crowd pleaser’ such as her ubiquitous hit,
I’ve never been a huge fan of the Horrors; I remember seeing them on the NME tour back in 2007 and their hyperactive goth-lite ‘schtick’ all felt a little pretentious for me. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that in the 8 years since then they have matured into a really excellent and enjoyable live band. Never the most talkative of bands, they showed surprising versatility and variety throughout the 6 song set comprising three songs from their back catalogue;
Sea Within A Sea
and Still Life, alongside debuting three tracks taken from their soon to be released album, Luminous;
In and Out Of Sight,
I See You and
So Now You Know.
Last, but very much not least,, were the irrepressible Basement Jaxx. One of the absolute stalwarts of the pop-dance world (the description ‘festival must-see band’ was virtually invented for them’) they were in as fine a form as I’ve ever seen them. Dressed in what can only be described as global hypercolour style church robes, they played a blinding 9 song set. Kicking off with brand new track, the bouncey house-y
Unicorn which managed to sound simultaneously bang up to date whilst still being classic Basement Jaxx, the room went wild. From the next 45 minutes Felix, Simon and their carnival of cohorts hardly paused for breath, treating us to old classics such as
Do Your Thing and
Good Luck, alongside premiering the aforementioned
Unicorn and ending with a rare outing of their 2013 single,
Mermaid Of Salinas. Having seen a line up that many festival promoters would be delighted present on their main stage I can assure you that no-one of the intimate 250 capacity crowd left feeling disappointed. I’m looking forward to the next one already!