Written by Emma Batrick
Robin Schulz’s name is about 20ft tall on the screens behind him as he kicks off the night to a crowd that want to party but aren’t quite ready yet. It must be hard to DJ on a platform in front of everyone with the place so well lit, with your audience mostly too self-conscious to dance with you and especially when you’re giving it your all. Unlike a band there is no big guitar wankery or drawn-out drumming – when a DJ set is over the record just ends. But you can tell people enjoy his soul-inflected dance music – they even watched him play it through their phones.
The whole band might not always look like they’re dancing to the same song (hello Grace) but it’s all about style with Clean Bandit. The strings give the music that classical edge and they mix it with a dark and lovely bass, a beat that’ll carry you, and singers who can really wail, dance, rap and whip you up so that you are guaranteed to have a good time. Songs fall quick and fast; there are the reggae sounds of ‘Rhianna’ (the B side of stripped back, no-strings-until-the-end-when-it-explodes, ‘Dust Clears’), along with the big ballad feel of ‘Up Again’ – which flips into drum and bass – and the calypso of ‘Come Over’, which is chased by something that sounds like 90s dance/garage with a jungle twist. Someone’s selling more albums. The penultimate song is a cover of Robin S’s ‘Show Me Love’; a massive singalong and leads to the climax of the violinist at the front of the stage. “We’re a thousand miles from comfort…”
Electric instruments gone, the stage is now dominated by a giant black DJ booth. ‘Bullet Proof’ plays for about 30 seconds, then there’s a break for a few minutes. It turns out that was our warning for the amount of bass that’s coming. The crowd counts down from ten. They know. The fuse is lit in the lights behind and lines chase each other to spell out David Guetta’s name. He emerges and tells us where we are, “London!” but goes on to say “This is one of my favourite venues. How you guys feeling? Are you ready?” Bang, my baby shot me down. As the bass drops fireworks explode at the front of the stage and the backdrop becomes a Lichtenstein-esque comic strip.
Party with me, I’ve got the bass to make you bounce. And there’s so much bouncing. So much pointing at David Guetta. His arms are thrown up and his headphones are wrapped around his forehead like a sweatband. We work hard, play hard, and we’re reminded of that a lot until it kicks in. The crowd want ‘perfect imperfections’. They go mad, hearts are thrown up (the hand symbol, not literally) and the big vocal of ‘When Love Takes Over’ kicks in. ‘When You Let Her Go’ is filled with ‘We Will Rock You’ hand clapping. Weird to me, but ok.
The only thing that I will say is that it feels a bit repetitive. A song starts, the bass drops, steam, fireworks or fire shoots up and then there’s the searing synths. But it’s so much fun. David Guetta’s smile is one of encouraging pure joy throughout the entire gig and you feel like you’d be letting him down if you didn’t at least throw your hand up every once in a while. The encore is unexpected, Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’, but “We have one minute to put this place on fire”.
He leaves the stage but then comes back to wave and shake hands with fans after. It’s really nice to see someone do something they really enjoy. And David Guetta? He loves it.
The iTunes Festival continues throughout the month of September. Keep posted to SupaJam for all the reviews and news on this musical feast.