WORTH A LOOK?: ****1/2
WHEN?: Saturday 2 October 2021
SETLIST: The Sweetest Girl; Day Late And A Dollar Short; The Boom Boom Bap; Oh Patti; Skank Bloc Bologna; Trentavious White; The Word Girl; Small Talk; Absolute; A Little Knowledge; Don’t Work That Hard; Perfect Way; Lover To Fall; Wood Beez; Hypnotize; At Last I Am Free
Good things come to those who wait and so it is with Scritti Politti frontman Green Gartside who explains during this show that panic attacks meant he couldn’t take to a stage for 20 years.
- Read on for reasons including how Hot Chip frontman and support act Alexis Taylor joins the band for a concluding Chic cover
This is the last gig of a 9-date UK tour and Green admits that his super sweet and soulful singing voice has almost deserted him but it seemingly makes it through this triumphant return to the capital for a 1st gig since 2016 at the Barbican without incident.
The most moving moment of the show for us came almost at its end with the predominantly white, middle-aged and mostly male crowd joining together to sing the chorus of the quite frankly still amazing Wood Beez (Pray like Aretha Franklin).
It’s a song that was so ahead of its time that although it reminds of Grandmaster Flash’s The Message its hip hop influences mean that despite being a hit in 1984 it could easily be a contemporary song from today’s chart.
Our devotion to the band springs from the album it is from – Cupid and Psyche ’85 which is to be played in full later this evening – but we begin with a track that is a little before our time, The Sweetest Girl, from *checks notes* the band’s beginnings in the 70s although it was released in 1981.
Green now boasts a voluminous grey beard and it’s astonishing to think that he’s 66 years old and that we have seen so little of him live. Cover Tangled Man was a song of the week for us last year and we explained then that despite being fans of the band for so long we had only seen them live once at an east London festival in 2012.
We’re not huge fans of gigs where beloved albums are played in full but there is a nice compromise here with a string of familiar songs from the band before that Cupid and Psyche reincarnation. It’s a thrill to hear the delicate melody of 1988 hit Oh Patti despite Green rather ruining it all by explaining that he knew no-one of that name, male or female, when it was written.
We always assumed that part of the reason the band never played live in its 80s heyday was that the songs were so exquisitely produced and beautifully put together that their intricacy meant that they were impossible to recreate at a gig but it’s clearly not a problem tonight.
Our favourites include the tambourine rattle in Absolute, pop heaven of Perfect Way and strut of Hypnotize which is so individual and futuristic it sounded like nothing else in the 80s and still doesn’t.
The support is from Hot Chip frontman Alexis Taylor who joins the band at its encore for a Chic cover and clearly, like everyone else in the room he is in absolute awe of Gartside who is more than making up for so long away from the live arena.
We weren’t sure how busy this gig would be because its difficult to be sure how popular a band which takes so long to release new material is but we needn’t have feared. If anything, this venue was so rammed that Scritti Politti needs little help from Cupid to be assured of a place in so many hearts.
I was lucky enough to see Green when he made his first return to the stage in 2006 in Chicago. I was able to speak to him before and after the show and struck by his humility and honesty. Cupid & Psyche remains a favorite after all these years. I proudly display my autographed copy of Anomie & Bonhomie to this day.