John Foxx/Rubicks

The Scala, London - 27 July 2006

"Foxx is one of the finest composers this country has ever produced"

With her orange babydoll dress, lead guitar and impressive rock chick vocals Rubicks singer Vanessa Redd cut a memorable front woman. While Marc Makarov lays down a sturdy bass and backing vocals. Tonight was billed as 'a drum machine performance' so I guess these guys must also sometimes use live percussion. Musically, this was USA-like New Wave - but good. A rockier second number drew a very positive response from an audience that seemed genuinely to be warming to Rubicks as their set progressed.

The third track with its driving lead guitar and solid bass against backing track featuring a children's choir was a stand out. In spite of just two of them on stage (and both sporting guitars) the performance was arresting. I don't think I've ever seen a lead female guitarist go for it so much on stage. There were numerous moments of furious guitar/bass dueling going on and Redd proved she was as fast and sharp on lead as the best of them. Further exposure to Redd's voice made me think of Xmal Deutchland and Siouxie and The Banshees. Rubicks would provide the perfect support slot to The Killers. Seriously good, they could down a storm in the US. Watch this couple closely.

[Rubicks - fast guitars]   [John Foxx - Unsurpassed]   [John Foxx]

Photos [L-R]: Rubicks, John Foxx x2

An intro from his latest instrumental cinematic styled Tiny Colour Movies played before John Foxx took to stage. Once more Louis Gordon provided energetic assistance - although he was absent from the billing this time around. If you're anything like me and believe that Foxx's Metamatic is a genuine landmark recording in the entire history of global music, then attending a John Foxx gig these days is about a close as some of us are likely to get to a religious experience (see Foxx at the same venue in 2003). He's older, probably wiser, and his trademark angular features are a touch less sharp than they used to be, but Foxx is still one of finest composers this country has ever produced.

The opening banging beats was a simple way to get this crowd quickly on their toes. Not that this partisan bunch need the slightest encouragement. This was just one big John Foxx love-in and there was a tangible good mood atmosphere generated by the congenial, middle-aged fans, rare for a central London gig. Another unfamiliar up-tempo track followed and established the tone of the first half of tonight's set focussing totally on the most recent material, which whilst unmistakably Foxx is not up there with his best work in my view. Although the slightly grittier, maybe even darker edge is an interesting development.

The projected footage was a montage of everything from 1930s black and white printing presses in action, to American 50s automobiles cruising through saturated colour landscapes set against clear blue skies. Although wide-ranging there were some great moments of synchronicity like the towering skyscrapers providing suitable dramatic backing to Shifting City.

The second half of the set revisited older Foxx and Ultravox classics. On the Plaza materialised in a darker, oddly laid-back parallel universe version. No One Driving was a brilliant combination of motorik beats, shimmering vocals and the addition of a new arpeggiating synth line was inspired. A total rave rendition of Nightlife substituted clubby shouting of the title in place of the sung line of the recorded original and, to my surprise, worked rather well.

1980's Underpass was as sublime and timeless as ever. This song simply never dates. Indeed, a quarter of a century on (!), it still sounds like it is being transmitted from the future. An almost unrecognisable Shadow Man closed the main set. The encore began with a crystalline performance of Ultravox's Slow Motion. This was just heaven. Then Shifting City itself which has firmly established itself as one of the most versatile and epic of live songs in extensive repertoire. It contains all the hallmarks of a great song in that it can (and usually does) undergo all sorts of tweaks and interpretations live and yet remains exhilarating in whatever guise. 

The fans loved every minute of it. Nodding sagely, like the wise man he is, John Foxx signaled his heartfelt appreciation and all concerned left the building enraptured.

Rob Dyer