The crowd gradually trickles up the stairs of the Dome’s studio theatre over the course of the warm-up hour on a Thursday night. We’re greeted by a selection of fuzzy house music expertly blended through weirder broken beats and warm, jazzy tracks courtesy of DJ Justin O’Brien. Not once overstepping the ‘warm-up line’ while slowly building up the anticipation of the headliner, O’Brien gets a cheer when he finishes as the band get ready.
The room is in darkness when they come on stage and kick things off with slow-builder ‘Battle’, the first track from Herbert’s 2015 album ‘The Shakes’. The album sees a return to the more dancefloor-friendly side of his work – the sort which launched him into the dance music scene in the late 90s. Since then he has kept ahead of musical and artistic curves with a widely varied output under a number of monikers. Disregarding boundaries and blurring the lines of genre, style, sound, music, and art, he maintains a Radiophonic Workshop-esque ethos that says “anything can be music”.
This is apparent tonight when he steps up to the microphone after the first track to welcome everyone, displaying his warmth and wit as he does so. He makes the audience laugh with a quick flick through some examples of drums made from the sound of a pig’s head and a toilet roll tube, or an incredibly loud wince-inducing crack of his own tooth being removed.
Throughout the night the show segues between uplifting and soulful house, dark and heavy beats, and quiet melodic moments. The band are really enjoying themselves on stage, with Matthew at one point joining the two vocalists in the middle of ‘Strong’ for a swing-style dance routine. The brass section, guitars, vocals, electronics and all the synth sounds and drum samples from Herbert’s unique library sound really tight, and all gel perfectly in the mix, from every crescendo to every quiet-enough-to-hear-the-whirring-of-Herbert’s-hard-drive bit.
The one and a half hour performance is over all too soon, as Herbert finishes the show by personally thanking every band member as they leave the stage, and then the audience.
Anyone who came here to be freaked out by weird noises or who wanted to watch someone sampling the sound of pig’s blood might have left slightly disappointed. Tonight was mainly about the dancefloor, but even so, we reckon they would have found it difficult not to enjoy at least some aspects of this unusual but entertaining show.
Brighton Dome Studio Theatre, Thursday 19th November 2015
Words by Johnny Phethean