The Astoria, London UK 1997

This review originally appeared on the CDNow web site.

Faithless have yet to make a dent on the U.S. music scene, but Europe is another story entirely. Granted, it took the British band quite a long time to break in its native land, but the crowd at the band's recent capacity show at the Astoria certainly had seen the light. In fact, in the manner of true religious converts, the UK audience seemed desperate to make up for lost time, going mental from the first note. By the third song, the band's uber-dance smash, Insomnia, I thought they might implode.


So just what is causing this unbridled enthusiasm? Well, it would appear that Faithless, under the guiding hands of legendary Brit mixmasters Rollo and Sister Bliss, has tapped into a need people seem to have for edgy, danceable music that shakes the soul and stirs the mind. On its debut CD, Reverence, the band fills this need by drawing on house, techno and rap and throwing in some pop, folk and soul for good measure.


Live, the band achieves the same Jack-of-all-styles effect, but they do it from scratch--this is one dance band that isn't content to rely on samples and synths. On this night, the gang is all here: the core of Sister Bliss, singers Maxi Jazz and Jamie Catto are augmented by backup singers Pauline Taylor and Dido Armstrong (Rollo's sister) and at least four other musicians on bass, drums, keyboards and guitars. The resulting sound is full of power and resonance, moving effortlessly from Salva Mea to the latest hit, Don't Leave, currently remixed for the soundtrack of the movie, "A Life Less Ordinary". Rollo, of course, is nowhere to be seen, most likely lurking in the background, twiddling knobs and keeping an eagle eye on his musical progeny.


While the diverse range that Faithless tries to achieve is admirable, it is obvious, both on the CD and this night, that the band's real strength lies in the more danceable numbers. Reverence, Salva Mea, and Insomnia get the best crowd reaction--the crowd is definitely in a dancing mood.


By the time Faithless hauls out "Insomnia" for the second time as its last encore, it seems as though the floor might collapse. The crowd loses its collective mind--it is almost impossible not to move to the infectious, anthemic keyboard notes that Sister Bliss is throwing out. Hands wave wildly in the air, the crowd jumps up and down as one, beer tips out of glasses, and then thud, it's over. The band takes a few final bows and all we're left with is an adrenaline fueled memory. Well, waiting in line for the coat-check ought to take care of that...

Copyright Lisa M. Moore
May not be reproduced in whole or part without my written permission.