Gig Review: SPACEHEADS Live at St Margaret’s Church, Manchester 26th April 2014
Playing the last of three shows to launch their new EP, Trip to the Moon, drum and trumpet duo Spaceheads returned to the beautiful setting of St. Margaret’s Church in the heart of Whalley Range.
Opening the proceedings was Paddy Steer, a one-man band whose set-up is as eclectic and random as his musical style. Using a mix of laptop, vintage synths, oscillators, percussion and a xylophone, the seemingly haphazard manner Paddy plays works amazingly to produce a soundscape which is remarkably entertaining. With the vocal being fed through a vocoder, the music at times sounded like R2D2 having a drunken fight. During some less abstract moments it was akin to Italian soundtrack legends Goblin. Dressed in a highly theatrical robe, neck piece and hat, looking like a cross between a glam rock priest and someone from The Arabian Nights, Paddy is a wonderfully visual as well as audible spectacle. He even dons a papier-mâchéhelmet, complete with glowing eyes and mouth, resembling a cyborg Frank Sidebottom to sing a number of songs. His quirky charm is easy to like, and despite what seemed to be a slapdash approach, it’s clear Paddy is very talented and it’s all put together very artful.
Paddy’s place on the bill is no random afterthought, however, as he also guests on the new Spaceheads EP playing bass. But there’s no on-stage recreation of this collaboration as when they hit the stage, a little later than planned, it’s down to just the talents of Andy Diagram, playing trumpet fed through all manner of electronics, and Richard Harrison, whose traditional kit is accessorised with several home-made pieces of percussion. Andy is, of course, full-time trumpet player in James, while Richard was previously a member of Blue Orchids and has played drums with Nico. However, it’s not really the associations which draw the crowds; Spaceheads music is a force in itself.
Musically, Spaceheads are pretty much an experimental jazz/fusion/trippy/dance band. Andy’s trumpet is looped, distorted and tweaked into rhythmic patterns which stir passions and movement from the listener. Richard’s drumming is intricate and layered, providing a solid beat which makes it even more danceable. Sounding like a rave party hosted by Miles Davis and George Clinton, this is trippy music without having to indulge in anything dodgy.
They play a selection of tunes from their new EP and the previous one, Sun Radar, with great energy and power. Andy walks the length of the church aisle and from the pulpit, like a minister addressing his congregation, never dropping a beat – one eye and finger on the iPhone attached to a spatula attachment to trigger the effects.
Enhancing the stunning church location, there was projections from Jaime Rory Lucy’s Rucksack Cinema. A mixture of film, patterns and random images (as well as the band’s circular pattern icon) envelope the stage area and across the ornate stone building, the stained glass adding a surreal extra element.
Unfortunately, it’s over too soon. Due to a strict 10.30pm curfew they have to finish on Trance Figure 8, from the 1999 album Angel Station.
Another great show, enjoyed by all who attended (which included Andy’s James band-mate Larry Gott). With James just about to undertake a flurry of live activity themselves, it may be some time before Spaceheads get together again for more shows, but when they do, make sure you check them out.