Review by Jack Foley
THE kookiness which surrounds all things Lemon Jelly went into overdrive
at the Forum, in Kentish Town, on Thursday, March 6, as DJs, Nick Franglen
and Fred Deakin, played the first of three sold out gigs for their fans in
Renowned for their quirky samples and offbeat musical style (as in current single, Nice Weather for Ducks, which is built around a children's nursery rhyme), it was always going to be one of the more interesting aspects of the evening to find out just how they would translate their sound to a live audience.
And, true to form, things began as they intended to go on. Walking through the doors of the venue, we were greeted by a Lemon Jelly goodie bag, packed with items such as an 'I love Lemon Jelly' badge, a red balloon, a Lemon Jelly 'Doodle machine' (great name for a pencil!), and a 'Greetings from Patagonia' postcard, as well as a bingo form.
Beers in hand, we then proceeded to an area near the stage, attempting to duck the numerous balloons which had been inflated, tied together and bounced around like volleyballs.
A few minutes later and we were into the first act of the evening - not the traditional support, but rather a game of bingo, complete with a sarcastic, but witty, compere, a number caller, and the Grim Reaper (?), on hand to ensure that there was no cheating. The prizes ranged from signed Lemon Jelly memorabilia to clothing items, CDs and tickets to any gig at the Forum, or a night with the Chippendales.
Needless to say, it got the crowd into a suitably stupid mood. But then time spent with Lemon Jelly is all about having fun.
Franglen and Deakin's arrival was pre-empted by a sample from the movie, Lost Horizon, the Frank Capra classic, from 1937, which features a number of air-passengers hijacked after leaving war-torn China, and ending up in Tibet's Shangri-La, where peace, good health and longevity are the rule.
It was quickly followed by the easily-identifiable strains of one of their previous singles, Spacewalk, as smoke filled the stage and the duo appeared, ready for blast off. It was, to coin a phrase, 'beautiful, just beautiful'.
In truth, much of what followed was merely two DJs going through the motions, occasionally picking up an instrument (acoustic and electric guitars, bongos, etc), while their records spun on the numerous decks which lined the stage. But the manner in which it was achieved was such that the crowd didn't seem to notice.
Listen to a Lemon Jelly album, and I doubt whether you could imagine dancing along to the tracks in a nightclub, yet played live - with the beats brought to the fore - and you get a nightclub atmosphere. Wherever you looked, people were swaying or dancing giddily to the music, while the ever-present balloons continued to float above our heads, occasionally getting burst by the hot ash from a cigarette.
Take, for instance, the relatively chilled Closer, or the equally soothing In The Bath - both tracks which rely on a slow-building format within the confines of a studio, but which cleverly brought the beats out early to keep the crowd lively.
And then there were the moments of complete 'cheese overload', as in the glorious rendition of the B-side, Soft (which features a lengthy sample of the classic Chicago tune, If You Leave Me Now), during which the DJs swayed in time with the music, sang along to the chorus and held two cigarette lighters aloft.
Nearly all of the back catalogue was included, as well as the B-sides, with other musical highlights including the Spacewalk B-side, Pushy, and album favourites, Return to Patagonia and Rambling Man.
There were times, particularly near the start, when both Franglen and Deakin looked overwhelmed by the occasion - but they managed to rise above the nerves to provide their fans with the type of show they wanted. And by the time the night drew to a close, with both Nice Weather for Ducks and the sublime Staunton Lick (which provided an excellent showcase for their guitar-playing ability), everyone was having such a good time that no one seemed to care.
In the words of one fan, who told me they had thought about not coming because of a hard day at the office, 'it put a smile on my face'. And that is the magic of Lemon Jelly.