LIVE REVIEW: Black Midi @ NX Newcastle (29.10.22) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by by Atiba Jefferson

Much has changed since my last Saturday evening spent staring at this stage. New owners Electric Group have renamed the venue NX, painted the entire place black and granted the hall a fresh novel design offering all manner of vantage points. Even that stale lingering smell has (for now) been vanquished, though one legacy of the old O2 Academy survives unscathed: the sound remains godawful.

It mightn’t have mattered much to the legions of meat ‘n’ potatoes rockers who’ve filled this room for much of the past decade, but in the case of Black Midi it leaves the entire endeavour feeling rather futile. Besides a curious penchant for entangling jazz-wrought math punk with unlikely pop classics (witness The Police’s Every Breath You Take, melded seamlessly amidst the wriggling contours of John L), the Londoners’ showmanship lies almost solely in sonic and instrumental chops. This razor-sharp, airtight alchemy of batshit time signatures and combustible freneticism serves them immensely, yet in this soupy cauldron the mind-addling intricacies and lurching tempos of new album Hellfire are at best tamed, at worst fatally blunted.

Here’s hoping this is merely a bad night, and not a portent of things to come at the lavishly refurbished venue. After all, the fact this show proves so unsatisfying has very, very little to do with Black Midi.

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