Faithless, Sheffield Arena

Sheffield Arena

Recent years have not been kind to the 1990s megaclub generation. However, despite frequently threatening retirement, London-based collective Faithless have proved as difficult to shift as a superbug. Their hits compilation sold a whopping 1.2m copies and - while there are rows of empty seats - they still cause ravers to gather in the sort of numbers that, in the acid house days, would have resulted in a police visit.

However, they are not really a dance act any more. They open with the sort of interminable eurorock usually performed by moustached Germans, so there are cheers of relief for vintage club anthem Insomnia. "I can't get no sleep," begins rapper Maxi Jazz. It's not surprising - the bass is mixed so loud it will probably cause sleepless nights in China. The punishing volume sums up the band's current sound - big keyboard stabs, enormous percussion, strobes and, unforgivably, a prog-rock style church organ solo. It is stadium rock in clubbers' clothing. It is also curiously anachronistic.

The Faithless sound now bears no discernible influence of any musical development since 1995, often drifting into endless noodly jams. Maxi Jazz is similarly edging towards self-parody. Those lofty, politically correct pronouncements were all the rage in the spliffy 90s, but now his bonkers syntax - "What's! The world! Coming to!" - sounds like a newspaper seller impersonating Victor Meldrew. At least cringeworthy ramblings about suicide bombers are preferable to meaningless platitudes ("It could be so beautiful ...") and an unironic Ali G impression: "Sheffield, you are amazing. For real."

With last album To All New Arrivals hardly flying out of the shops, most are here for the old hits, so it's a shame that the band is bored with them. God Is a DJ's giddy thrill is slowed to a Mogadon thud. Mass Destruction is bafflingly rendered in the style of Hawkwind fronted by Alf Garnett. Only at the end do they unleash the BPM-crazy trance that causes clubbers to throw their hands in the air as if praising the Lord. Predictably, We Become 1 and I Want More send the place absolutely crazy. Clearly, only the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will rid us of Faithless now.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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