Reviewed: Cybotron Live Show
I have to admit when I first saw the listing for this event my initial thought was ‘What, the same Cybotron that released ‘Clear’?’. The reason for my head scratching was that ‘Clear’ was released back in 1983 along with their seminal album ‘Enter’. I knew ‘Clear’ from a Street Sounds Electro compilation I had on cassette. Some say Cybotron’s ‘Enter’ was the start of Detroit Techno, but I had no knowledge of that term at the time, or who Juan Atkins (the main man behind Cybotron) was. I was however very excited by this new electronic sound, the popping and locking, graffiti, clothing and culture that came with it. Little did I know that ‘Clear’ was going to be one of the first electronic tracks that put me on a path towards a long love affair with electronic dance music.
Fast forward 36 years and I was at one of my favourite venues for live music – The Barbican Centre -often cited as the ‘ugliest building in London’. As the saying goes ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’ as behind the Barbican’s brutalist architecture is the main concert hall built to handle the best orchestras on the planet. I was genuinely interested to hear what Juan Atkins and the rebooted Cybotron had planned? We had been promised ‘The Cybotron Principle’ – that a computer can be as good, or a better musical collaborator than a person’
As we entered the Barbican main hall and saw everyone taking their seats it seemed like it may be a civilised electronic affair. As Juan Atkins took to the stage with his Daft Punk esque helmet-clad cohorts and the LED wall fired up it was time to see exactly what ‘The Cybotron Principle’ was all about.
With gigs like this, where you have 3 guys behind 3 keyboards/controllers and the LED screen is doing most of the captivating, it’s more comparable to say Kraftwerk than Daft Punk, but perhaps that’s what Cybotron were aiming for? Maybe the often over produced live electronic music shows of today dazzle you with smoke and mirrors (often literally) to hide the fact that there isn’t anything that fascinating watching someone play a keyboard, especially if you can’t even see the human emotion in the face of the performer.
What Cybotron do have on their side, of course, is music that shaped a lot of people’s lives. Memories, fragments of time and as Cybotron eased into their flow, as did the crowd, who were starting to loosen up and get to their feet and show their appreciation for a sound that felt timeless.
By the time ‘Clear’ came on for the finale, it was also quite clear that you don’t necessarily need all the bells and whistles if you have a truly invested crowd who weren’t interested in living the gig through their phone screen but in the enduring electronic beats.