What: Evidence of Time Travel
Who: John Foxx & Steve D’Agostino
Where: BFI, Southbank, London
When: 21st November 2014
Over the last few weeks a staple on my cd player has been “Evidence of Time Travel” by John Foxx & Steve D’Agostino. It is an eclectic, tight, set of instrumentals which creates a mysterious air. It has echoes of Foxx’s early instrumentals like “Film One” but also traces of John’s more recent albums like “Tiny Colour Movies” and “My Lost City”. It also brings some new things to the table that are not present in any of those recordings. It is a very good release in a sequence of top drawer releases that Foxx and his cohorts have made in recent years. It is not his best but it stands up very well amongst his recent body of work.
All of this makes it all the more surprising to be writing a downbeat review of the debut performance of this album in a live environment.
Support performance was by Paul Prudence whose work sits nicely alongside that of Mr Foxx. Prudence performed “Cyclotone II” which begins as a series of noises and static over a series of rotating and shifting circles which were projected on the theatre screen. As the performance continued the noises become less novel and the circles do become a little repetitive. In the final few minutes of a 30 minute performance, the noises build to explosions and catch, in one way or another, the attention of the audience again. Mr Prudence’s work is good, albeit less musical than Mr Foxx’s (which I think is his intention) but his visuals are somewhat more on the money than what we saw during John’s performance.
It is brave of Foxx and D’Agostino to perform their new album. Many rock artists are performing their “classic” albums as a whole show or half a show with “Greatest Hits” in the second half but this is a different kind of night altogether. This is “art” and it leaves the audience unsure whether to clap in the gaps between the tracks that they have perhaps heard on their album at home or whether to remain silent for the whole presentation.
The music is accompanied by images provided by Karborn and I have to say that these add little to the performance. They are of the kind which might be familiar to those who have attended recent John Foxx concerts – sculpture, images of men in suits, actors and actresses from films of a bygone era, all of which distort and change as the music progresses.
However, in one of Foxx’s concerts your attention shifts between the artists and the screen. Tonight, we are in a darkened cinema and there is nothing else to hold your attention. Even with the music there is little indication of how much the artists are controlling and how much is prearranged and sequenced. There were times when I unkindly thought I might as well be at home listening to my cd.
The music IS largely identical to the studio recording, although something odd about the speaker and amplification arrangement in the room seems to cause more of the mix to come from the left-hand side of the auditorium and leaves it sounding a little unbalanced. Also strange disembodied voices are adding to the soundtrack (not spoken by any of the performers) which relate to the themes behind the pieces of music but add little for this listener.
So in the end 11 tracks have passed and Foxx, D’Agostino and Karborn are quickly gone.
As I said it didn’t work for me and perhaps on another day I would appreciate it more but I was left with the impression that the artists meant it to be serious and important but it remained just outside of my grasp. I couldn’t say this of the “Cathedral Oceans” or “Tiny Colour Movies” shows but perhaps this one just wasn’t for me.