Who would have thought experiencing live music in a public space would become such a novelty? With a room filled with spaced candlelit tables, deep crimson lighting and the sound of ambient electro, Belgrave Music Hall did their utmost to usher in this new era of COVID-friendly events by transforming their gig space into a cool cabaret fit for the modern day. It was hard to believe it was only 2pm.
Stepping onto a stage forested with an array of ferns and flora, Alexis Taylor, best-known as the lead singer of British synth-pop band Hot Chip, got to work straight away without any level of fanfare. Taylor started his set with a run of his downtempo solo work, wielding just an electric guitar and his clear-voiced vocals, at a halted, or perhaps even apprehensive, pace. However, a special note must be made of his rendition of Hot Chip classic ‘Boy from School’ as Taylor’s pared-down take perfectly accentuated both his choral melancholy and the song’s bittersweet lyrics of lost love and fleeting youth.
Yet, as Taylor took to the keyboard to begin his set’s second half, he regained his stride. Newly-written, unreleased ‘It’s Hard to Feel Funky When You Don’t Feel Sexy’ has all the tongue-in-cheek playfulness you’d expect from its title paired with pulsating synths and a clattering backbeat. Then, unexpectedly Taylor raced through a variety of covers taking on everything from the 80s Sophisti-pop of Prefab Sprout to an electro-tinged reworking of Bonnie “Prince” Billy. As he wrapped up a saucy but silly interpretation of Prince’s ‘Head’ – the artist’s song about, you know… – in tribute to his own headless electric guitar, it served as a reminder of how wonderfully ridiculous, hilarious and downright fun live performance still is.
The encore of ‘Hot Squash’, with its driving kick-drum, throbbing bass and ample psych rock guitar breaks, ensured Taylor finished his show on a high. Towards the end, Taylor asked the crowd who was attending a gig for the first time since the country went into lockdown. The roar from the room was unanimous. Above all else, from the performers to the audience to the crew to the staff, people were just happy to be there. Thank God for the return of live music!
Header image: Alexis Taylor. Credit: DIY.