LIVE REVIEW: Hard-Fi at O2 Kentish Town Forum

Hard Fi
Credit: Bernice King

The year is 2005. Phones still have rudimentary cameras, and social media, as it is today, is still in an inchoate state. No one filmed on their phones or updated their status during gigs. There were no sneaky vapes because people legally smoked cigarettes at live venues, stinking their clothes and others around them.

Among the gadgets and cultural habits of the year, a key symbol of 2005 is a black CCTV camera on an almost neon yellow backdrop. This is, of course, the artwork for Hard-Fi's debut LP Stars of CCTV. Everyone knew what this symbol represented, and 17 years later, fans still do.

Hard-Fi opened with Stars of CCTV's second track, "Middle Eastern Holiday". From the energy, beat, tenacity and politically leaning sentiment, fans still remembered the lyrics and experienced this song as if it was fresh and new. Kentish Town Forum was elated in a time capsule. Hard-Fi then played the bass-heavy "Gotta Reason" from their debut as well as "You and Me" and "Can't Get Along (Without You)" from their 2007 effort Once Upon a Time in the West.

The melodica came out for the band's cover of The White Stripes "Seven Nation Army". Although Murray Lightburn (The Dears) said in 2006 that he wasn't a fan of this cover, Hard-Fi fans thought otherwise. The strength in Hard-Fi's interpretation was to allow fans to sing the do do do do do do do's without being prompted and without the band explicitly playing these notes. As Hard-Fi then proceeded to play "Tied Up Too Tight", the greatest elation and mass audience participation came during the Na Na Na Na Na segments. The genius of "Tied Up Too Tight" was that the instantly enticing beat followed by dropping the guitar riffs before the crescendo of the na's kicked in.

Hard-Fi's ability to continue to fully captivate their audience incrementally was through "Cash Machine" with the by-i-i-i-i-I's. "Suburban Knights" also touched the sold-out venue with the eh eh eh's, oh oh ooh's and ah ah ahh's. The final track before the encore, "Hard to Beat", captivated the Forum differently by being an indie rock song that delved into dance and club territory without making gig goers self-conscious.

Post encore saw the band return to play the acoustic-led "Stars of CCTV". And weren't they right about how this technology did and would further impact society? This song was celebrated as the crowd in unison sang back, "We're the stars of CCTV". The finale, "Living for the Weekend", reminded the majority of their fans how old they were when this song was released. This song spoke to many present who, when it was first released, were being pushed out of the cocoons of their protected innocence into the real world, and the weekend was the only temporary reprieve.

Two new songs, "Happy" and "Looking for Fun", were played. However, by playing nine songs from their debut, this set was mostly about celebrating Stars of CCTV. This was the album fans wanted to hear and the period it was released in they wanted to relive. Hard-Fi proved that they could be identified solely through a symbol.

Hard-Fi relived how they penetrated the zeitgeist in 2005 and celebrated a time when a band's highest chart entry wasn't determined by the sales generated during the first week of release. Stars of CCTV took six months to top the album charts. Times have changed, but fans' devotion to Hard-Fi hasn't.


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