Neon Neon, Village Underground (6 Jun 2013)

Neon Neon, Village Undergound

Continually inventive with two biographical electro-pop albums, Neon Neon have now taken the live music experience to another plane with their touring performance of Praxis Makes Perfect which celebrates and inspires through popular culture, while still getting the basics spot-on, by letting us all have a good dance to a brilliant sound.

Their third consecutive night at the Village Underground in Shoreditch was more much Performance Art than a run-of-the-mill Thursday night gig in London; an indication of what was to come came in an online invitation asking ticket-holders to wear an item of red and bring a copy of a favourite book to exchange with fellow gig-goes, referred to as “comrades”, ahead of the prompt 8pm start. And “comrades” seemed appropriate as once inside the atmosphere was both electric and unifying.

Actors were both in the crowd as well as on a central on a stage in the middle of what would have otherwise been the dance hall in a performance interspersed with the live music, while throughout visuals were beamed onto the walls narrating the tale of Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, the subject of their second album.

The story sheds light on a little-known Italian publisher who smuggled Dr Zhivago out of Soviet Russia, which leads to arguably the slogan of the night: “Reading is Resistance”, as the lead character argues that he can be anti-fascist without being a violent communist. He convincingly makes the case that art and popular culture are freedom as actors playing soldiers storm into the audience and chastise anyone going near a discarded book, as the crowd are now complicit supporters of Feletinelli.

We go on to see more of his life through the cultural and social changes of the time, including the swinging sixties with nude body painting and the protagonist playing basketball with a wise-cracking Fidel Castro before his life ends with a body hanging from the ceiling of the Village Underground. Before his body is carried out, Gruff Rhys holds up a placard instructing us to make a “LEFT FIST SALUTE”, which we all doing willingly, caught up in the emotion of what has unfolded in the best part of the previous 90 minutes.

Placards have long been a part of Super Furry Animal gigs and by the end, as we are all lost as one in Neon Neon’s music, dancing in a freedom Feltrunelli was fighting for to I Lust You from Stainless Steel, the placards are out in abundance, with humour and topicality thrown in with messages on subjects including Bradley Manning, casual texting and the Da*ly Ma*l.

It is about as action-packed as any gig has been for an hour and a half and engrossing and enjoyable throughout. The Super Furries are missed, but Neon Neon have brought something new and started their own party. By the end, surely everyone wanted to live in the Neon Neon republic Gruff Rhys declared, with their own currency that was earlier showered down from above.


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Neon Neon picture © Randy The Funk