Photos by Eleanor Doughty.
Saul Milton and Will Kennard – perhaps better known to you as electronic music duo Chase & Status – seem to be playing to a different audience as of late. Having apparently all but graduated from the underground (thanks to what many critics view as an increasingly commercial sound), the duo have left the 4am raves to bring their new pendulum-esque live set up to a change of scenery; a gig predominantly filled with under-18s.
With the Chase & Status live experience due to start before 10 o’clock, the venue held an atmosphere far removed from the sort of sweat-beaded, wide-eyed chaos of their usual post-midnight DJ sets. Compared to the traditional sort of DJ set-crowd interaction throughout support slots, the standard gig behaviour of ‘stand still, gawp, sip drink’ proved itself the major disadvantage of Chase & Status’ first foray into the gig circuit. Not that it affected them directly, but whilst DJ slots will, for the most part, have people dancing in the hours approaching the headline slot, the gig format saw Chase & Status’ support acts offered little more than a cold shoulder.
It seems as if not even being armed with a laptop and a copy of Serato, Traktor or whatever timecode-based DJ assistant DJ duo 16bit came along with could help them. The pair’s mixing peaked in quality somewhere round ‘sketchy’, stopping off at ‘abysmal’ and ‘intolerable’ at points along the way. With songs appearing with little or no hint of mixing and often at completely inappropriate moments, the set would have been enjoyable had the duo not made the decision to play a set comprised of the most unbearable, overwrought and grating ‘dubstep’ ever produced by man or machine. This disappointment is compounded by the quality of the initial 10 minutes of their set, where appearances from tracks by Jakes, Joker and 12th Planet seemed to indicate that their hour long set would explore the more cerebral, high quality end of the dubstep spectrum. Apparently not.
So thank God for Devlin, who, despite an equally bewildered reception from a fairly static crowd, brought his take on the sounds of UK grime to warm up for Chase & Status. With considerable stage presence and active involvement with the crowds, Devlin and fellow MC Dogzilla managed to thaw out the crowd’s frosty reception by performing over popular dubstep and drum and bass tracks such as Caspa’s remix of TC’s ‘Where’s My Money’ and Sub Focus’s ‘Rock It’. Although widely lost on everyone in the venue, Devlin deserves as much credit for his performance as he does for breaking through to the despondent throng he stood in front of.
The crowd, whilst mostly made up of people being turned away from the bar, in fact covered a striking range of demographics, who seemed to finally wake up on the appearance of Chase & Status. Armed with live electronics (hidden nicely behind a huge metal ‘C’ and ‘S’), sandwiching a fairly intimidating looking drum kit (emblazoned with an ‘&’ on the bass drum – see what they did there?), the live set-up was visually engaging from the offset. With dazzling lighting and visual boards busy with projected images of guest vocalists sandwiching the stage, the visual experience was only matched by the auditory heft they brought.
Whilst the Chase & Status live experience lacks the flow and continuity that a mixed DJ set obviously offers, the weight of opening track ‘Smash TV’ spoke volumes to those doubting the effectiveness of the live set-up. By no means compromised by the conversion to live electronics, tracks including ‘Hurt You’, ‘Running’ the duo’s remix of Nneka’s ‘Heartbeat’, and a particularly intense version of ‘Saxon’ (complete with a fiery guest appearance from grime’s prime anger management candidate Tempa T) still hit with incredible weight and ferocity. Few tracks echoed the reception given to their commercial successes with UK rapper Plan B though, as both ‘End Credits’ and ‘Pieces’ were received with adulation and euphoria from the crowd.
Whilst both of these tracks have offered Chase & Status the most commercial success, they definitely rank as some of the less intense numbers in their arsenal. Yet the reception and the atmosphere in the room as Saul took to the guitar and Plan B took to the screens either side of the stage was astonishing. When I spoke to Chase & Status earlier in the year for Faux, a great deal was made of the electrifying impact of the live experience. Whilst initially sceptical, the weight, energy and passion put into the Chase & Status live experience demonstrated to me that the duo haven’t explored ‘live’ as a gimmick, they’ve broadened their horizons.
Chase & Status will be taking their live show to many festivals this summer, including V Festival. They have an as yet untitled LP slated for release later in the year.