Netsky Live | Concorde 2, Brighton | 8 December 2015
Sometimes, you leave a gig feeling the performance fell short of what you were hoping for or didn’t match a previous experience you had with that artist. That’s what happened to me with Netsky Live. I’d seen them before, at the Brighton Centre in November 2013 when they supported Chase & Status, and thought they put on one of the best performances by a support band I can remember. I can’t say drum and bass is my favourite musical genre, but I really liked many of Netsky’s songs and thought they were even better — even more energised — being played by a live band.
Almost exactly two years on, I got to see them again and this time I was properly invested. In the summer I’d met and chatted with drummer extraordinare Michael Schack when he gave an electronic drum masterclass in Brighton and I’d also interviewed Boris Daenen — the man behind Netsky — just a few weeks before. As a result, the first date of their short UK tour was a gig I was really looking forward to. Even more so, when it was being billed as an “incredible live show”.
A sold out Concorde 2 was rammed with one of the youngest audiences I can recall seeing there, and they were already going mental to the support DJ’s — Dimension and Bonkaz — way before Netsky took the stage. But even before they did, I felt just a little underwhelmed. I was expecting a bigger than usual production, yet there wasn’t even a backdrop or a Netsky logo in sight. What there was were a bunch of Roland gear: two banks of keyboards and some impressive looking electronic drums.
All three musicians were wearing tight white shirts, as was Script MC. It made them look like a bunch of office workers who’d taken off their jackets and ties to put on a show. But the truth of the matter was…it wasn’t much of a show. Although it’s his gig, Boris himself was all but anonymous at the back, leaving it entirely to Script MC to interact with the audience. Being an MC, he was full of energy, running around the stage non-stop, but I found him to be really irritating as all he did was shout the same stuff over and over again. I’m not a big fan of MC’s and to my mind, Netsky Live would be better off without one.
Things only became interesting whenever vocalist Billie joined them onstage. Ironically, the first song she came on to sing was Come Alive and immediately she added what had been missing: an emotional connection that transformed things from being not very interesting to becoming a real performance. The same happened when she reappeared for Love Has Gone. Indeed, for me those two were, by some margin, the best songs of the night.
Judging by the crowd, I’m sure the vast majority had a great night, but in truth I think they would have enjoyed it just as much if Boris had been on his own doing his DJ set.
To be honest, I don’t think the venue was right. I know they’ve played C2 before, but to me Netsky Live need a much bigger stage and a much bigger production. One thinks back to their gig at the Brighton Centre and perhaps even more germane, to Disclosure’s performance one week later at the Brighton Dome.
That night the Laurence brothers really showed how a dance act can stage a great live show. They had superb visuals, excellent lighting and a bunch of live singers. Despite their lacking in the personality department, they put on a captivating performance that has quickly grown to become even bigger and better as we saw when Disclosure headlined Wild Life this summer. By comparison, based on this show, it felt like Netsky Live had taken a step backwards.
I’ve no doubt, had they had Disclosure’s production, they could have put on an equally good show. These days, the bar has been raised and putting on an “incredible” live show needs considerably more than just a few lights.