John Foxx and Louis Gordon

Mean Fiddler, London - 15 September, 2001

"John Foxx is still the master"

[John Foxx and Louis Gordon]

This one-off date came directly before the release of the great electronic one's latest album, the aptly titled The Pleasures of Electricity. The most surprising thing then, was that this was, essentially, a re-run of the brilliant (and totally electronic) Subterranean Omnidelic Exotour from 1998, since it featured just one song from the new album. So those, like myself, expecting a preview of a whole bunch of new material were perhaps slightly disappointed. Still with a back catalogue dating back to the (still) emotive allure of early Ultravox songs like Hiroshima Mon Amour, Just For a Moment and Dislocation (all of which made a welcome and powerful appearance), 1980's seminal Metamatic, through to the urban electronics of 1995's Shifting City there's plenty for Foxx to choose from. Like other artists who, with the benefit of hindsight, realise where their best work now lies, Foxx ignores his forays into traditional instrumentation and the less than convincing follow ups to the landmark Metamatic (The Garden, The Golden Section and In Mysterious Ways).

The set is based around Metamatic and Shifting City, which although separated by fifteen years blend well together. Two men in grey suits [John Foxx and Louis Gordon] walk onto the stage, take up their positions either side of the stage behind their synth towers, the packed Mean Fiddler goes berzerk and 20th Century blasts out of the PA stacks. It's quickly followed by Burning Car - both songs jarring with raw power and still sounding incredibly avant garde despite being over twenty years old. There are extended versions, reworkings (Overpass) and at least a nod towards contemporary dance beats, but unlike some artists' excessive live reinterpretations of their early work, these retain their distinctive qualities, emotions and edge. For those lucky enough to have seen Foxx's first live outing for an age during the Subterranean Omnidelic Exotour, tonight has a strong sense of deja vu. The only point of departure is a preview of the track Night Life from the new album The Pleasures of Electricity. This was the final song of the night - the second of two, brief encores. Foxx was accompanied throughout by relative newcomer Louis Gordon (who shares a passing similarity with his namesake, TV presenter Louis Theroux). Gordon has a larger role than merely helping out on live dates. Both 1995's Shifting City and the latest album are co-written by Foxx and Gordon. It's well known that Gary Numan wound up marrying one of his fans. John Foxx decided to co-write with one.

Musically, it's unclear what Gordon brings to the table. But backing vocals aside (which are a definite asset), there's no doubting one thing Gordon brings to the live show - his energy. Although both wearing Foxx's trademark suits, unlike Foxx, (who always manages to look stately without seeming pretentious), Gordon leaps around like a chimpanzee suddenly, expectedly free of captivity. The trainers he's wearing should have been a dead giveaway. His frantic body gestures remind one of numerous classic spastic performances by comedian Jerry Lewis. Leaping away from his keyboards as though the keys are charged with 50,000 volts, he frequently turns and plays wild air guitar... to the non-existent [John Foxx and Louis Gordon] guitar parts! For an artist as controlled and demure as John Foxx, this initially comes as something of a shock. But you quickly see that it's genuine and he's simply enjoying himself - immensely. Remember, this guy used to be a fan, for him this must surely be a dream come true.

Foxx on the other hands remains typically stylish and repeatedly looks across to Gordon and gives him several broad, approving smiles. Foxx himself content to pose perfectly whilst playing single handedly - the free hand held dramatically high above his head - part tongue in cheek jest - and partly because it just looks plain cool. His masterful voice remains as distinctive and strong as ever it was. Not necessarily pitch perfect but undeniably evocative and potent. He even retains his striking looks. The years have indeed been kind to John Foxx but not just to his physical attributes. The song writing on Shifting City remains equally distinctive and emotive. The official Metamatic website reports that there are plans for a tour specifically to promote the new album, The Pleasures of Electricity. It will be interesting to see how a set based around the very latest material holds up in comparison. But, for now at least, John Foxx is still the master of the early 80s electro artists. The only one to maintain his remarkable and enviable position as one of the godfathers of electronics, and his rare talent for creating beautiful music with machines.

Rob Dyer