When you work in events you often get to see good acts but unfortunately as father time begins to tap more deftly on your shoulder you often find yourself like some middle aged freak in the middle of a crowd of millenials (them thinking you are a w**ker and the feeling is often mutual). But last night the security blanket of a primarily middle aged crowd was like walking into the light, it felt very much like a comfort zone. However on entrance the rather tacky merch stall along the concourse of the arena reminded you that this was a ‘rave experience’ packaged for generation X’ers, empty nesters and ‘consumers’. Walking through the tunnel entrance and into the arena I was actually pleasantly surprised that the production was pretty stripped back with the stage in the centre on a giant turntable. It did (apart from the video walls) look like a classic big room rave set up, in fact slightly reminiscent of a Pandemonium gig at Telford Ice RINK back in 91′. So we found our spot and settled in.

The warm up act Jax Jones was completely the wrong booking. Banks of 40 somethings just standing there like Meerkats sipping their warm beer or sickly ‘sparkling wine’ from refundable ‘eco’ plastic cups thinking ‘what the f**k is this s**t?’, when Jax dropped a Rhianna mix (that he seemed to be possibly the only one in the entire postcode to be excited about) it was like watching a comedian dying on stage, you felt for him, it was cringe worthy and you wanted the obligatory shepherds crook to hook him off to the safety of the nearest Elrow gig. His on screen graphics were like something from a Nintendo Wii, absolute horror show. It was clear that this crowd had come for old school (skool) vibes. The cheers that rang out after his set were probably out of relief.

So it was show time.

Mr Norman Cook.


The auditorium swelled to capacity after the upstart left the stage and it was time for the main act. Immediately the sound and visual went up a notch, you could see that the budget was biased to this moment. Big tune entrance.. first 30 minutes of his set he played a pretty obvious back catalogue but chopped up and re-edited. It was clear during this portion of his set that, just like the Olympics opening ceremony, the bog trotting mofo was miming!! Haha.. at least he remembered to include wiring on his props this time. It was like watching one of your pissed up mates somehow stumble into the DJ booth and ape all the cliche moves of a sticky carpet club DJ. I actually found it hilarious, it was like he knew he was taking the piss and somehow I felt in on the joke. In his second portion of his set the movement on his screen of the Serato programme indicated to me that he’d switched off auto pilot and was actually singing for his supper. Norman then played an absolutely storming tech house set which to be fair was absolutely right up my street. Proper credible driving house. It probably went over about 50% of the audiences heads who had probably fired up their flouro sticks for a night of ‘Hacienda Classics’ that reminded them fondly of their Sambucca drenched halcyon days in the Ritzy back ‘inna tha day’. But looking from side to side there was a hard-core of house heads that absolutely got it. Fat Boy made this Fat Boy dance.. and I freakin’ loved it. Last 15 mins he dropped Rolling Stones – Satisfaction in a fashion more reminiscent of his Heavenly Social style sets that made him famous as a DJ act. Great crescendo. Overall great set. I’d say a strong 7/10. Walking out of the arena looking at loads of middle aged ‘Janet from accounts’ type women with a ‘what the f**k just happened’ look on their faces I was thinking fair f**king play Mr Cook, fair play… you got all the middle aged folk here and rocked their world with a largely very credible set. For that he gets a bonus point. Not a classic eclectic trainspotter fest like his sets of the 90’s, but an absolute banging performance. Even though he looked like someone’s drunken Uncle on holiday in Benidorm lost on his way back from the pisser, I doff my cap.. we escaped into Nottingham after the show and found 2 bars with super credible DJ’s playing classic vinyl cuts. .. it was an amazing night..

a strong 8/10… I loved it xx

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