Melody Maker | Live | 23 September 1989 | Photo: Stephen Sweet
Town & County Club, London
There are those who would have you believe that dance music cannot be presented live in the same way as rock and, to be honest, they could call upon hundreds or
maybe thousands of examples to fight their case. Anybody who had the misfortune to witness one of the numerous Jackmaster tours of the last two or three years will probably never bother attending another gig of its kind.
So, despite Inner City's reliance on technology and the fact that the work of Kevin Saunderson, work that has made him one of the most sought-after producers of the year, has previously been confined to the studio, it was vitally important that this performance should offer something different. Which is why the array of instruments that are uncovered as a Detroit techno DJ warms up the crowd is such a beautiful sight.
Saunderson and vocalist Paris Grey are supported by nine others – by keyboard players, a bassist, a drummer, an electronic percussionist and backing singers. It's a proper band and there are one or two misplaced fingers and sticks to prove it. When the bunny-hopping Paris jumps far too early into the second verse of "Paradise", a look of pure terror creases her face. Her quick recovery is admirable.
That the deliciously creamy quality of Inner City's songs is slightly soured is precisely what is required in this context, yet none of the charm of either "Ain't Nothing Better" or "Set Your Body Free", which is introduced as the next single, is lost in the translation. The heartfelt soulfulness of the vocals and the techno-pop rhythms of "Set Your Body Free" is a bewitching union. Like the unforgettable melody of "Do You Love What You Feel", it sends bubbles of delight coursing through the veins. Naturally, most end up at the feet.
In their desire to put on a show, if anything, Inner City go too far. The pair of male dancers, dressed in matching bandanas, cycling shorts and shiny boots, are an unnecessary touch. Their movements are so stiff that they could easily have been on loan from Yazz. The radiant sensuality of "Power Of Passion" is denigrated as one of them insists on rubbing his torso against Paris and gyrating at the front of the stage. It's not that it's particularly distasteful, it's just a bit embarrassing.
Nevertheless, throughout, the atmosphere is similar to that of a rave at its height. Strobes flicker, searchlights swoop, smoke billows, and the sound of whistles and air horns bounce from wall to wall. Only three of the opening five notes of "Big Fun" can be heard before a huge whoop of exaltation rises like a tidal wave and countless arms are stretched upwards. Dropping a scowl for a broad grin, a burly security guard towards the rear can no longer resist joining in. Tonight represents a giant leap forward for mankind, as well as for dance music.
Behold the new gold dream, 91, 92, 93, 94...