LIVE REVIEW: Jockstrap at the Barbican Centre

Photo credit: Eddie Whelan

Having performed at Glastonbury and opened for Blur, Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye, being Guildhall School of Music graduates, were ready to take on the two-night Barbican Centre residency. Jockstrap, nominated for the Mercury Prize, has been described as "genre-jumping" masters of "discordant synths". The harpsichord and pianos certainly made up much of the set, with Taylor Skye being the master sheepdog of two keyboards and two grand pianos.

With Ellery and Skye being influenced superficially by dance and electronic acts, including James Blake, Jockstrap falls into his genre. Opener "Neon" was built upon the crude classification with an acoustic opening that developed with synthetic beats and a gorgeous cacophony of an eight-piece string ensemble. Ellery, usually accompanied by the violin when playing live with Jockstrap (as well as her other band, Black Country New Road), allowed herself to kick off her shoes to dance and move freely across the stage.

The sophomore "Debra" added haunting elements and Bollywood-themed chords, whilst "Jennifer B" saw house party-influenced arrangements with beats not dissimilar to Nikki Minaj's "Superbass." The synchronisation of the two was unexpected. It kept the audience captivated as if they were watching a blink-or-miss series, and the only way to find out what happens next is to continue watching. The only track played from the 12-song set that could be described as comforting with the safety net of predictability was "Sexy 2," with eighties-inspired hip-hop.

Apart from "Sexy 2", the remaining songs took a willing Barbican on adventures to the unknown. "Angst" was a raconteur with the harpsichord, and "Pain is Real" saw genuine surprises with broken beats layered with EDM and Skye's superb falsetto. "Greatest Hits" was the "cool cat" of the set, where the audience felt as if they were transferred to a fine dining restaurant with a cheerful jazz piano. "Concrete Over Water" brought the Beatles "Blackbird" into the twenties with flutes and percussion.

The best and "fan favourite", "50/50", closed the set with a superb combination and unexpected tempo changes with the synths. Skye also demonstrated how to pretend to make a cake. During mid-baking, a giant "The Thing" "-like character addressed the stage, which got, until that point, a seated audience up and dancing.

A seated audience doesn't mean a non-plussed audience, for the Barbican released prolonged jubilant cheers after each song. Furthermore, for an audience where many were under 30, seldom a phone was recording or taking photographs. Whilst technology drove this set for the most part over traditional instruments, Jockstrap reached out to the generation after millennials and got them to enjoy a live experience sincerely. The only problem was that the set was over an hour long and heavily supported by technological aids; the duration wasn't long enough. Nonetheless, the Barbican Centre was more than satisfied and left wanting more.


Xsnoize Author
Michael Barron 331 Articles
Michael first began writing whilst studying at university; reviewing the latest releases and live gigs. He has since contributed to the Fortean Times as well as other publications. Michael’s musical tastes vary from Indie to psychedelic, folk and dubstep.

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