Rounding off a series of successful gigs held at Caerffili’s stunning castle over two successive weekends, there was a great deal of expectation on Groove Armada. The bar had been raised high by stellar performances at the same venue by the likes of The Stranglers, Public Service Broadcasting and The Zutons. The events deserved to go out on a high and, thankfully, these constants of the UK dance scene over the last two decades did not disappoint. This gig was nothing less than a triumph and proved that they have the live prowess to more than do justice to their formidable back catalogue.
Before they took to the stage, the assorted gathering – which no doubt included veterans from the acid house days, 90s rave scene and Ibiza summer excursions – were warmed up nicely by Jean Jacques Smoothie of ‘2 People’ fame. A short interlude followed before Groove Armada took to their stage with a full complement of live drums, bass guitar, guitar and keyboard. It was evident from the off that live instrumentation brought a more powerful edge to every single track and allowed them the flexibility to depart significantly from certain songs. ‘If Everybody Looked the Same’ was a good example of a song souped-up for this live performance as, on record, it’s a little too commercial for my liking. Tonight, however, it was blown apart and put back together with added menace in the form of some punk rock guitar. Lot of other songs felt like they had been soaked in classic Chicago House for 24 hours before being unleashed on the appreciative Caerffili crowd – and they sounded so much better for it as well.
It was not just about Groove Armada though. They were joined onstage by a series of stellar singers who all played their part in making the night one that was impossible to forget. The excellent Saint Saviour probably featured on more tracks than any other vocalist due to her involvement the band’s best album and criminally underappreciated; Black Light. ‘Paper Romance’ ‘I Won’t Kneel’ and ‘Look Me in the Eye Sister’ were performed with charisma and power by Saint Saviour who somehow managed to make a blue boiler suit look cool. The pace was frenetic and barely gave the audience time to catch their breath between dancing. A brief respite arrived with the ambient classic ‘Down By the River’ which was the perfect accompaniment to the dusk finally falling on the grounds of Caerffili Castle after one of those sunny days that feel endless.
Inevitably, MC M.A.D. closed proceedings with the group’s anthem; Super Stylin’ and got everyone bouncing in unison to the beat drop. It rounded off the perfect night on a high-octane high that wrung the last drop of energy from all concerned.
Before the concert, the group announced on social media that it would be the last opportunity for an ‘all killer, no filler’ set before making and promoting a new album. I, and many others at Caerffili Castle for this special evening, will undoubtedly await the band’s next move with baited breath.