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ireallylovemusic archive : thomas dolby live : chicago may 17th 2006


thank you internet archive.

after a work based jolly, i wrote this for playlouder (rip) and never kept a copy for myself.
the fact that this concert was then released as a live album made the loss all that more intense.
however, the pain is no longer required.

post historical notes : wtf re the hate re fall out boy ! more fool me.

thomas dolby
martyrs, chicago
wednesday, may 17th 2006

so, here i am stranded in downtown chicago on some mortgage-paying business trip figuring out how to kill some time. prior to my arrival i tried to find some form of musical related relief that would help me out with my hbo addiction, but the options were not good. local heroes fall out boy (i am sorry – but what the fuck is all that about ?), long-standing alt.rock beasts pearl jam, and post rock intensity from mogwai were in the listings for the week.
but during my tirade against all things unwanted, i chanced upon a small item somewhere online, “thomas dolby is touring”. and he’s playing in chicago – in the home of the blues, acid house, and wax trax i have a chance to see a long forgotten master of 80’s english synth pop who will only ever be remember for two of his most dreadful records, ‘hyperactive‘ and the overplayed ‘she blinded me with science‘.

lady luck had been kind – or has she?

after all, this is a man who’s been out of the music loop and hasn’t released a record in more than 10 years. so just what on earth am i letting myself in for?
an evening with thomas dolby, a piano and a bunch of excessive shoulder pads being serenaded by some of the coffee-table soundtrack rubbish that he drifted into?

martyrs isn’t a high-tech venue at all, but more reminiscent of your local pub venue with total lack of lighting, and a stage opposite the bar, and things are already looking better than i had hoped for, despite the fact i am surrounded by a room full of mirror-me’s. among the expected crowd of bellies, baldies and mortgages, there are signs of new blood, possibly enticed along by the excellent new ‘submarines’ remix by ricardo villalobos that damian lazarus dropped into his suck my deck set?

thomas dolby walks on stage: bald head, the trademarked reflective round glasses, headphone/camera gadget and the heaviest duffel coat you have ever seen, making him look like he has just stepped out of an army and navy surplus store remake of the matrix.
genius. he looks fantastic – a proper pop star, none of that jeans and t-shirt attitude.

any readers out there who have heard his classic album ‘the golden age of wireless‘ will know what to expect – lots of interesting melodies, strange noises, midi-syncopation, and genuinely brilliant songs. and that is exactly what we get.
for just over and hour, the man-machine and gadgets work in perfect harmony, sometimes with thomas starting tracks off manually and building them up layer by layer a la jamie liddel (thus proving it was actually live and not all hard disk’d up). dolby’s time away has done nothing to dispel that fact that for all of his mtv sanctioned image, he has actually crafted some wonderful pop songs along the way – ‘one of our submarines is missing‘, ‘wind power‘ and the ongoing saga that is ‘europa‘.

in-between each song, thomas regales us with stories, unexpectedly; he has morphed into a gadget loving showbiz luvvie, well sort of.
the stories are full of honesty, warmth, and typically british self-deprecation.
we learn why he has fallen off the flat earth (unavailable on cd dontcha know!), why he settled in the usa, about his gadgets and so much more besides, and naturally, the sell out crowd lap it up. so much so, that following ‘windpower‘ the reaction is so overwhelming that thomas looks as if he’s caught off guard.
but given that the crowd have been listening to this song now for more than 20 years, to actually hear it performed live with a refreshed base of sonics, and in such well-defined detail is rather special indeed, and we just want to let dolby know his exertions are appreciated.

unfortunately, the all too brief show flies by, i dance, i laugh, and the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end when he drops my favourite dolby track, ‘budapest by blimp‘. perfect pop music: no scientific proof needed.