With a big night at Invisible Wind Factory, Paul Riley finds himself disappointed by Nightmares on Wax, but finds a promising new talent in MC Nelson. 

No matter how many shows you go to, there will always be ones that raise your expectations to the point that you are almost guaranteed to be disappointed.

As a seasoned gig-goer, you know this, and you try and avoid building yourself up. It will only end in tears, and also to be perfectly frank, it puts promoters and performers at a disadvantage before the show has even begun.

However, here at Slop we are not so much steely-eyed and steady-handed journalistic vultures so much as we are easily excitable toddlers that are liable to make a mess and cause a bit of a scene if we get carried away; and we quite frequently get carried away.

Writing the preview for an artist you have never seen live but have been listening to regularly for over 15 years is pretty much guaranteed to make this writer start mentally counting down the days to the show, and so it went on this occasion. Nightmares on Wax is a bona fide legend who is responsible for an incredible body of work including several seminal albums such as Car Boot Soul, Smoker’s Delight and In a Space Outta Sound.

His latest album, Shape the Future, has been on rotation in my car since its release day, and while it is not a stone classic, it is definitely a grower. The grooves, beats and samples blend together into something that feels like pulling on your favourite hoodie – welcoming and reassuring. On top of that, there are a number of tunes that are genuine ear-worms, the lyrical content is profound, thought-provoking and immersive. Lastly, there are the vocalists themselves; a number of powerful performances throughout the album which added another dimension to the LP.

All in all, the prospect of Nightmares on Wax bringing a live band performance to Invisible Wind Factory was probably something I was justified in getting excited about.

Sadly, it wasn’t a live band. High expectations had me thinking that we were in for a performance like Floating Points (live), Massive Attack (live) or even Bonobo (live). God knows there’s enough instrumentation throughout NoW’s back catalogue to pull together 90 minutes of drums, bass, guitar, horns, strings, vocals, samples, keys… We were hoping for all the stops to be pulled out, we would have been pleased with a three-piece and DJ set, we got a drummer.

I won’t hear a bad word said against drummers; some of them are even nice people, however they are not a band.

The stage was dressed in a way that reminded me (and probably most of the other people in the crowd) of their student house living room – couch in the middle of the stage, a dude smoking a spliff, a coffee table. This was rather amusing as it is NoW’s natural musical habitat – the after party.

Unfortunately this was the Party, and it was somewhat lacking. NoW is a stunning producer, a fixture on one of the most exciting record labels in the world and a superb DJ. Unfortunately, he is not an MC or a live performer, and this show really could have done with more to be involved with. Try as I might to maintain my buzz, as the show progressed, and musicians resolutely did not come to the stage, I had to face the fact that this was essentially a DJ with some backing tracks, a (very good) drummer and some (also very good) vocalists who wandered on and off the stage throughout.

We didn’t stick around for his DJ set, which would undoubtedly have been more assured than the ‘live’ performance.

Main support for the night was Hector Plimmer, who were rather confusing if we’re honest. A duo who played music that seemed incidental and yet clearly written, rehearsed and orchestrated, it was interesting enough to listen to at home perhaps, but not enough to grab us in its live form.

By far the most exciting and engaging artist of the evening was in fact the one who suffered from the smallest crowd. Local wordsmith MC Nelson delivered where the rest of the night didn’t – namely, with an assured and energetic performance that engaged the audience, displayed technical ability, a high level of performance skill, and genuinely exciting songs.

Pictures by Brian Sayle