Alarm bells ring when I hear the words "crossover act" – especially when it's an electronic artist trying to spice uptheir show with instruments. All too often, the results are half-baked, neither satisfying the craving for a deep synthetic beat nor conveying the subtleties of a tight live performance.
So I arrived at the Yuksek gig somewhat sceptical. Promoters had set the bar high, touting the show as a "world-exclusive album launch party" – a rarity in Shanghai's music scene – and setting ticket prices to match. It got off to a rocky start early on when the cavernous Mao Live, one of Shanghai's largest music venues, appeared worryingly under-populated. Plus the press pack gave me a paper cut – damn Peugeot catalogue!
But local producer R3 kept things rolling, delivering a solid warm-up that gave a taste of things to come. By the time Yuksek and his "mystery" band came on stage, the room was heaving, and electric with anticipation. The French artist was greeted by the chants of a hardcore Gallic fan-base, and the choice of Shanghai for the act's first performance started to make much more sense.
The refreshingly simple three-piece band comprised of a percussionist, a bassist/synth-player and the man himself. An opening build-up from a single soft note broke into a driving electro beat, with the percussionist lending an alluring human element to the mechanical rhythm.
Then Yuksek stepped up to the mike. Given he built his reputation on electro remixes of catchy alt-pop tunes, his vocals were unexpectedly impressive. Though not particularly original – he was somewhat reminiscent of Block Party's Kele Okereke, among others – he delivered a passionate performance that the crowd lapped up.
The group's sound was a satisfying meld of classic melancholic electro harmonies with occasional retro allusions and contemporary vocals. They took it down a notch half way through to deliver a slower-paced, glitchy tune with a dubsteppy rhythm, before cranking it back up for the last few songs. The show ended with a single encore accompanied by some crowd surfing – a sure sign of success for a mid-week gig!
I was disappointed the band didn't give a few more encores to the hungry crowd, and the second half of their set was over-amplified, leaving a nasty ring in my ears. Niggles aside, R3 stepped up after to sling some deep, techy beats, bringing an end to an enjoyable evening.
Orlando Bowie is an accredited journalist working for INTERFAX CHINA, an industry news provider. To contact him by email here
WORDS: Orlando Bowie