Jon Hopkins packed out Leeds’ 02 Academy on Friday night, touring his latest critically-acclaimed album Singularity. Having most recently seen Hopkins on the decks at Melt Festival two years ago, and first been exposed to him through the excellent Late Night Tales series, I was excited to see how his live show measured up. Whereas his Late Night Tales composition was gentle and moving; with his DJ sets being altogether more banging. I’d hoped his live show would pull together the best of both.
I wasn’t disappointed. Having warmed up an expectant crowd with the gorgeous Emerald Rush, he soon brought out the heavy artillery. What followed was a rapid one-two of his biggest tracks. Everything Connected bleeding nicely into Open Eye Signal, creating the sort of exhilarating techno whirlwind that’s most often heard in a converted warehouse at 4am. It’s a peak time combination that arrived within the first thirty minutes of his performance; Hopkins building a frenzied atmosphere before moving back down through the gears. Each tune had its place in a procession of his greatest hits. Most impressive is Hopkins’ ability to knit tracks from different albums into one soundscape. It helps that he really found his voice on Singularity, which picked up where Immunity left off and improved it even further.
Light through the Veins was as affecting as ever; a quite wonderful way to draw the curtain on any Jon Hopkins performance, returning full-circle toward his earlier work. This had followed covers of tracks by Disclosure and Wild Beasts. Both excellent, it was my first time hearing them, Hopkins putting his own stamp on both. Had it not been for the good people of the Identification of Music Group, I’d have been certain they were his own work.
However, it’s still my own view that he’s a better DJ than live performer. Musically, his live show is sensational. Visually, it was found wanting. It’s a big ask for live performances of electronic music to have a firm grasp on a crowd’s attention, especially inside a fairly conventional gig venue. Bicep are the latest to make the transition, but this owes much to a bespoke stage show and careful venue choices. Their recent Printworks outing, captured by Resident Advisor, felt like a watershed moment for the duo, in a way that this particular show did. Jon Hopkins remains one of the finest producers and DJs in the country, but the journey from the DJ booth to the stage is rarely an easy one.
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