I’d been to Bicep’s clubnight at SWG3 earlier this year, which I thought was slightly underwhelming (though still good) given the massive, massive hype surrounding it, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from their live show. Their self-titled full-length album, released earlier this year, was a pleasant surprise given the somewhat middle-of-the-road techno that constituted most of their DJ set – an oasis of atmospheric house that’s as close to Andy Stott as it is to Calvin Harris – so their live set really could’ve gone in any direction.
In all honesty, the immediate reaction BAad got from me was “Why the fuck would you put palm trees in a music venue?”, though this was followed by a somewhat more nuanced thought that it seems like a hidden gem in the Glasgow electronic music scene. I kept revisiting this thought throughout the night as it became clear that 9pm is absolutely not the appropriate time for a house live set, but this aside, it’s a larger and better laid out space than its location in the shadow of the legendary Barrowlands Ballroom would suggest.
By far the most recognisable element of Bicep’s set from their earlier appearance in Glasgow was their set design, with easily the best lighting and graphics you’re likely to see at a house live show this end of 2017. Primary colours wash over the audience periodically with rows of soft lights extending from the stage back to the bar, with lasers which could rival the I AM’s TRON events. A constant projection of Bicep’s logo (it includes lots of biceps) glitching and stuttering in lockstep with the lighting and music made for an especially satisfying visual experience, though it should be said that this is not an act to see if you can’t tolerate a lot of visual stimuli at once.
The music itself was, thankfully, closer to Bicep’s album than their DJ sets. Very close, in fact, to the point where the volume, lighting and setting were essentially the only variables at play that separated the live show from just listening to the setlist at home. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since the album is fantastic, though somewhat disappointing since it indulged a great deal of peoples’ misconception about electronic live shows: that they lack the personal connection, improvisation and spectacle of shows with traditional instrumentation. As already stated, the spectacle was very well-executed, and while Bicep themselves performed unlit, that’s not necessarily a bad thing if watching musicians play laptops or decks isn’t your thing. The issue was more with the fact that the lack of improvisation left a lot to be desired for a fairly steep ticket price.
The lack of personal connection from the artist(s) can sometimes be made up with a close-knit crowd, but it became clear very early on that the proportion of EDM lads would make that impossible. It’s okay to go to the gym and enjoy Avicii while wearing shorts and all, but I find having a primitive idea of personal space and other peoples’ willingness to see you half-naked less agreeable.
In short: Bicep: good, listen to the album. Bicep in BAad: palm trees good, “press play” approach to electronic gigs bad. Bicep’s fans: not my scene, but if it’s yours, go for it.
[Nour El-Issa – @dimredspectre]