With their slightly wonky alternative American twang, it was easy to see why Marina Gasolina had been chosen to open tonight. Having only heard a couple of their songs beforehand I was open-minded and up for a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, it didn’t get that. Instead, I got unbearably shrill, ear-piercing female voice screaming above some arch Rockabilly influenced noise. When they slowed down the tempo (such as on No One Loves You Like I Do) the potential was clearer, but this was the exception to the otherwise frenetic rule.
I’ve got an odd live relationship with Ladytron. I love what they do, and they can be a brilliant live act, but more often than not, for one reason or another, they’ve not lived up to their ability. I think I’ve just been unlucky. Their 2009 live album Live at London Astoria 16.07.08 is a reasonable indication of what you can normally expect from them live. They tend to sound beefier, heavier live than on record, but never at the expense of the minutiae or detail of their studio recordings – a neat (and not easy) trick to pull off.
The best I’ve ever heard them live was in a frustratingly short 30 minute support slot to Nine Inch Nails in 2007. This evening could have been up there if only for the annoyingly poor sound setup – and for that the band themselves must take some responsibility. The DJ set that welcomed early arrivals proved that the PA configuration in The Forum was well up to the job of the night. In fact, the volume at that time was too loud.
When Ladytron took to the stage, to get a better view, I took up position to one side of the stage. Whilst this isn’t going to be the best place to hear any live band, the sound was incredibly poor. It sounded little better than a school disco PA and the volume was way too low with the chatty noise of the audience vying for position over the sound of the band - useless. So I took to my heels and did a circuit of the venue trying to locate a sweeter spot.
This I managed to do and it was (no surprise) slap bang in the middle at the back of the venue, behind the mixing desk. Only problem here was not only was this about as far away from the band as you get reasonably get on the ground floor at The Forum (the balcony wasn’t open) but the too low volume was all too apparent, which meant that it was a bit like hearing a band from afar at an open-air festival. I could have placed myself in the thick of the throng front mid-floor (which I didn’t much fancy), but that’s where I started and the volume was still not loud enough.
Anyhow, what of the band themselves? Well, in spite of our poor track record together, I will still wholeheartedly recommend seeing them live. If you’re already a fan and yet have never been to one of their gigs you are seriously missing out on another dimension to the band that can only be experienced live. There’s always a more robust, stronger, urgent aspect to their live arrangements. That many of the elements are performed on stage with their extended live line-up helps reduce the reliance on too many technology boxes – but the lovely analogue synths still earn their place up there. The melodies are played live with a dexterity and faithfulness to their recorded counterparts, but you never get the feeling you’d rather stay at home and listen to the album instead (which can often happen with electronics bands). A solid drum kit delivers lively percussion that both mingles with and beefs up the digital percussion.
A special mention must go out to the those behind
the impressive lightshow, which included some thrilling use of piercing
green lasers. All the right elements were present, the actual
performance bang on but all of this was undermined by the delivery from
the mixing desk on the night. A real shame but, I’ll still be looking
out for the next opportunity to see Ladytron live. I’ll just keep my
fingers firmly crossed that the next time will be the time
for it all
to come together as it must surely do.