Gig Review: Stereolab at Rescue Rooms

Words: Oliver Parker
Photos: Nigel King
Sunday 19 November 2023
reading time: min, words

Stereolab's devout and large fanbase is very clear from their most recent show in Rescue Rooms, which sold out almost instantly. Even as the first band was setting up the crowd had mostly packed their way in, front to back, ready to see the main act...

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After a ten year hiatus Stereolab returned in 2019 and since then have opted to purely focus on live shows as opposed to releasing any new material. The band - known for their eclectic sound which ranges from influences of krautrock, jazz, funk and pop music - have developed a cult status since their inception in the nineties, with their unique and experimental sound, along with their politically inclined lyrics, helping them carve their own niche fanbase.

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Opening the concert was MEMORIALS - a relatively new supergroup duo consisting of Verity Susman from Electrelane and Matthew Simm’s from Wire - whose largely undefinable sound was a perfect warmup for Stereolab’s own idiosyncratic sound. Despite being a two piece they each played a variety of instruments and were able to easily conjure up incredibly loud, pulsing sounds that filled out the entire room.

Most noticeably was a song that started as an ominous discordant jazz piece, backed by some incredibly eerie red lighting in the background, that fluctuated into a thumping dance song that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Berlin rave. It was a strange mix of sounds but it all flowed very naturally; providing an excellent opening performance.

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Taking the stage shortly after was Stereolab and within minutes the entire crowd was entranced by their incredibly upbeat, psychedelic music which sounds even better live than it does on record. Over the course of many years the band have released ten albums so naturally there is an incredible range of material to squeeze into a ninety minute set; luckily, the bands very consistent discography, with little in the way of duds, means that regardless of what they pick it is always going to be very enjoyable. Most prominent in the setlist was a selection of singles from their early days such as the delightful sixties pop inspired Lo Boob Oscillator, or the more German inspired song Harmonium (which is one of their earliest singles). 

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However, Stereolab certainly didn’t rely on nostalgia to carry their set and played a myriad of songs from newer albums such as their last album Not Music or 2006’s single Eye of the Volcano. Regardless of what era of time the band were drawing songs from, they were all performed with an equal amount of care and intensity that became quite an effable experience. The rhythmic sounds throughout the set was an absolute joy to witness and many songs turned into what felt like experimental soundscapes that you could continue listening to all night. It was almost a shame the venue was so busy as Stereolab is a band that almost demands a dance floor, instead the crowd was jam packed with many people who could barely flex a muscle.

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Regardless of how many people interacted with the band during the music, it was clear that they had made a lasting impact with how much applause was carried in between every song; after finishing their set with fan favourite French Disko, an incredibly long round of cheering roared through the room. Throughout the ninety minute set there was never a dull moment with the band blasting through some of the grooviest, funkiest and irresistible songs written in the last few decades; joined with a very entertaining opening act it was a thoroughly delightful evening.

Stereolab performed at Rescue Rooms on 16 November 2023


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