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Culture Reviews
Front 242
By Alex Meredith
There are few things that in-your-face techno heads Front 242 have in common with wilting seventies crooners the Bee Gees, but knowing how to make a quick buck is certainly one of them. Both came unapologetically to Moscow last week, bringing with them their cargo of old rope, to cash in on 2 very different audiences, both equally eager to part with their roubles for their product. Whilst one can perhaps forgive Robin Gibb, with his long and established back catalogue of floor fillers, and robbed of 2 original members of the band for answering the heckles of the Kremlin crowd and sticking to the programme, to see Front 242 with no new wares was inevitably disappointing.

Having blazed a trail across the European industrial dance scene through the 80’s, selling over 2 million albums and amassing a committed following of bass junkies, the Belgian trio’s productivity has slowed of late. It’s been 2 years since Patrick Codenys, Dirk Bergen and Daniel Bressanutti (aka Daniel B. Prothese) produced an album with the previous effort being fully 10 years before that. Their sound remains addictive but what was once so fresh and edgy is only made palatable by the energy of the band members. They have influenced so many others but the performance at Club Mechanica confirmed that we have seen the best and perhaps the last new material from these legends of the underground.

That is not to say that the gig was not a success. Anthems like “Headhunter” and “Welcome to Paradise” certainly struck a chord with the expectant crowd who were regularly sent into a fist-punching, boot-stomping frenzy. Well at least some of them. Frustratingly half those present were held back behind a barrier away from the stage. Perhaps this was no bad thing since their aging fan base saw dread-locked ravers matched in even numbers by back row toe-tappers more accustomed to the aisles of the State Kremlin Palace. One thing was for certain, the roof was never in any danger of being taken off.

That said, for those who had come to revisit an electronic experience of 10 years ago they would not have gone away disheartened. Whether flipping out in front of the stage or supping a beer at the back, the inspired visual show memorized the congregation from every angle. Thundering beats and dizzying mixes blasted out, winning the battle over lamentable acoustics to seduce the crowd with Front’s unyielding rhythm. The accompaniment throughout was provided by the effervescent band members who never ceased in their enthusiasm despite the fact that this was clearly a repeat performance.

With such proven quality in the back pocket, 242 did not disappoint an eager crowd looking for a sensual bombardment. It was a powerful, energetic performance lit up by imaginative visuals. But even for those able to get to the heart of the action it was never more than a reissue of the same material, a best-of performance to reward the long-standing devotee, that never threatened to compete with those given when the band were at their trial-blazing best. Front 242 have no immediate plans to publish new material and so for the time being these cash-in gigs are a fan’s best chance to relive some moments from their prime. To do so is certainly recommended as these accomplished live performers still manage to generate their own brand of Saturday Night Fever.

05.04.05
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