Leftfield | Pop review

Academy, Sheffield

In the early-to-mid 90s, at the height of dance music's dominance, Leftfield were so cheerfully anonymous that few of the million buyers of 1995 classic Leftism would have recognised them if they'd stumbled into the pub. A decade since they last played, the upside is that no one seems to notice or care that half of the duo – producer Paul Daley – hasn't joined this reactivation, or that bespectacled founder Neil Barnes – now 49 – looks more suited to his original job as a teacher, about to tell the audience to stop all this raving and get on with their geography homework.

Back in the day, Leftfield gigs were notoriously druggy affairs, so loud that the bass was reputed to be specifically aimed at triggering bowel movements. These days, the greying audience look more likely to have rung a babysitter than a dealer, but the volume is so punishing that a friend texts to say she can hear proceedings "perfectly clearly" from a bus over the road.

Being lectured about "one love" by a baseball-capped rapper called Cheshire Cat is somehow very 90s, but in the crucial department, Leftfield have got the grooves: the last time a crowd danced like this might well have been in the 90s.

Leftfield's genre-fusing electronic stompers haven't been dulled by ubiquity and Original (with Jess Mills replacing Toni Halliday), Release the Pressure, Phat Planet and the rest sound fresh, if no longer futuristic – more like a favourite holiday destination given a lick of paint. In 2010, sticking a hand in the air and cheering them is a guilty pleasure, but a pleasure all the same.

At Rockness Festival, Loch Ness, on Saturday.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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