808 State review: Inventive and original with their back catalogue as they are with new material

Electronic pioneers 808 State. Photo: Courtesy of James Masters

Electronic pioneers 808 State. Photo: Courtesy of James Masters - Credit: Courtesy of James Masters

Electronic pioneers 808 State made a long overdue return to The Waterfront playing reworked renditions of tracks from across their 30 year history along with some new material.

When Andrew Barker and Graham Massey last played the Waterfront they were the first band to do so in 1990. Many more famous and influential artists have followed since and the duo returned having long ago cemented their reputation as a groundbreaking act on the UK electronic scene with classic tunes such as Pacific State.

The crowd were well warmed up when the band took to the stage thanks to an energetic and inventive set by DJ and producer Lone whose admiration for 808 State has earned him the support of the elder statesmen of electronic music.

Barker and Massey accompanied by a drummer kept the energy levels up with a ballistic opener which mashed up Future Sound of London's Papua New Guinea and Cubik from the band's 1991 album Ex:el with heavy psychedelic guitar and abrasive beats. The next recognisable tune to emerge from the barrage of beats, loops and guitar shredding was the band's debut release Let Yourself Go from 1988.

The band have a strong live element for an electronic act with Massey jumping between guitar, saxophone and an extensive collection of synths, sometimes switching instruments mid tune. On Sunrise, one of the more chilled tracks of the set, he alternated between sax and keyboards and on Plan 9 he plucked and strummed an acoustic guitar with a sound so heavily processed it was hard to recognise.

No-one failed to recognise the intro to Pacific State as Massey took up his sax and played then improvised around the soft jazz melodies of this club classic. Hands and glow sticks were in the air and there was even an attempt at crowdsurfing as Barker added tribal chants and percussion loops into the mix.

Another highlight was In Yer Face with its crunchy riff and infectious energy, and as the set drew to a close the band reprised Cubik in its original form. There was time for one more track and the band dropped a new one which was the most old school acid house tune of the night. Bubbly bass and wonky synth loops got the crowd dancing like they were at an early 90s rave.

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This was no paint-by-numbers greatest hits show from a group that are as inventive and original with their back catalogue as they are with new material. The set was quite rough and raw at times and it will be interesting to see how it develops as they complete their new album and hit the festival circuit next summer. 2019 promises to be an exciting year for an iconic, innovative band with plenty more ideas left to explore.

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