Leftfield’s time in the spotlight was consigned to a distant memory in 2000 when Neil Barnes and Paul Daley laid their project to rest and went in different directions. In the years since their music has remained as pioneering as ever, and following Orbital’s triumphant return to the live scene after five years of silence, it was with even more excitement that Leftfield revealed they would be bringing original vocalists Djum Djum, Earl 16 and Cheshire Cat, all of whom played key roles on Leftism and Rhythm & Stealth, together for a comeback. Although Neil Barnes couldn’t get Paul back on stage, hearing their much-loved electronica performed live once more has been a highlight at the festivals they’ve played this summer and a return to Brixton Academy was always going to bring a rapturous welcome.
Wasting no time to give the audience what they came for, Barnes launched straight into their danceable offerings “Afro Left”, “Black Flute” and “Space Shanty” which were instant reminders of how their tunes remain as exciting as ever. Performing with a backdrop of a trio of video screens offering journeying scenes, there was an electric atmosphere. Lower offerings “Song Of Life” and “Original” were sumptuous while “Release the Pressure” was warmly received. Leftfield’s second album Rhythm & Stealth was never as popular as Leftism and it was no surprise that “Afrika Shox” was one of the weaker tunes of the evening, especially as Afrika Bambaataa was the only vocalist unable to take to the stage – a recording coupled with his mouth performing the lyrics on screen just didn’t do him justice and led to a disappointing finale to the initial set.
A return to Brixton Academy was always going to bring a rapturous welcome.
Their encore showed two sides to Leftfield, each with its own charm. First up “Melt” warmed the audience with its soothing tones which has ensure it found its was onto so many chill out albums. Possibly the most laid back tune Leftfield wrote, it was not a pounding return to the stage the cheers wanted: that enthusiasm was rewarded with the first bar of their final offering. The unmistakable throbs of “Phat Planet” reverberated throughout the air of Brixton Academy as arms were thrown into the air. The original was a beat monster and while Neil Barnes kept the pace at a slow stomp initially, by the end he had ramped up the speed to that which Leftfield had started their set: a rousing techno beat pumping the dancefloor energy.