Live Review: Clean Bandit

O2 Academy – 10/03/2015

If you suspect Clean Bandit’s fusion of Russian classical music and dance-pop of harbouring gimmicky, Eurovison-eque intentions, you might be more than a little correct – but who cares? It’s a fun gimmick from a fun band seemingly intent on passively sponging up elements of garage, house and other genres less namely associative with suburban living. Plus their violinist Milan Neil Amin-Smith (parents can be cruel) is a “pure helffy” in Glasgow terms presumably less familiar to the Cambridge quartet, and he’s not bad on some strings either.

But despite Glasgow not being their home, the band looked measurably comfortable on-stage at the O2 Academy. Live, Clean Bandit’s classical and dance meshwork produces mixed results. High points included the seamless weaving of the gloriously uninhibited skripka chorus of ‘Mozart’s House’ with the sort of London rap and dance previously beatified live by the likes of Disclosure and Rudimental.

Here, danceable lip-sync-for-your-life pop melody enlivened an audience equally appreciative of Milan the Helffy’s violin solo, a concept unimaginable to those of us still recovering from high school assemblies. Think Tudor court, had Anne Boleyn lived long enough to discover the ‘90s London garage scene, and you’re halfway to comprehending the brilliance of this live music juxtaposition.

Less impressive though are the moments – the many moments – when the beat-heavy live performances outweighed cellist Grace and Milan the Helffy’s string inputs, flooding the experimental with the familiar. ‘Extraordinary’ dragged itself back from the point of euphoria with a military-like sense of discipline, too concerned with technical perfection to actually have any fun.

The Clean Bandit live experience feels like a precursor to something bigger, something more. ‘Real Love’ and, of course, ‘Rather Be’ give audiences a glimpse of a band with grander sonic intentions, their rolodex of guest singers suggesting a float wishing to become a parade.

Clean Bandit are on solid form in pop mode. Undiluted tears-on-the-dance floor, Swede-mimicking pop. And if it’s a route they want to go down on their next album, we can only hope that they hurry themselves back to Glasgow.

[Rhys Harper – @RhysRHarper]

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