Soulwax @ The Custard Factory Warehouse, Birmingham – 26th April 2008


The scene was set.  Eager party goers shuffled around as the Custard Factory opened its arms to the mammoth touring machine that is the Soulwax ‘Part of the Weekend Never Dies’ Tour.  Over the last six years I have followed Soulwax from their initial gigs as 2Many Dj’s, then as they evolved, the Nite Versions Tour.  They have progressed from playing the Medicine Bar, to taking centre stage in the drained, marqueed pool, to this year their biggest Birmingham venue to date, the Custard Factory Warehouse.  I came to the gig with reservations as to whether another tour of a majority of songs off the Nite Versions album which has been out since September 2005, would really be able to provide the same excitement and impact as earlier shows.


I was happy to keep an open mind, and by the size of the crowd I found myself sandwiched in, they are clearly still ahead of the competition in any popularity contest. Before Soulwax take to the stage at around 12, ever impressive DJ and producer Riton takes the increasingly inebriated crowd through a selection of his latest remixes and crowd pleasers. Then before you know it, a stylishly white clad Soulwax strut onto the stage and dive straight into their set. The crowd are jumping around before they play a note, within seconds Soulwax have the crowd in the palm of their hands. Just as I remember from seeing them previously, they gather excitement by treating the show and playlist like a peak-time DJ Set.

The crowd are teased through highs and lows and then a variety of tracks from the Nite Versions album are dropped on the crowd. Most notably ‘Accidents and Compliments’, which builds up with its synth stabs and driving beat into a roaring anthem which takes the award for the most hands in the air! Throughout the set some of their most notable remixes are perfectly woven in, such as their brilliant reworking of LCD Soundsystem’s ‘Get Innocuous’, the remixes proving the key to stopping the show from becoming a ‘haven’t I seen this all before’ moment. That said, standout tracks such as ‘E Talking’ and ‘Krack’ still sound great live, make the crowd go mental, and ensure that at no point does the audience’s enthusiasm waiver.


From seeing the majority of Soulwax’s Nite Versions shows in Birmingham, this time around I couldn’t help but feel as though most of the excitement I had previously felt had begun to slip away. Soulwax are the grandfathers and pioneers of a genre of music which I used to live for, but sadly is becoming increasingly stagnant and uninspiring. This is evidenced in the fact that the show has hardly changed since the Nite Versions tour a couple of years ago and is still based almost wholly on a very played and familiar album. I find describing the Nite Versions album as ‘tired’ very sad, because at the time of its release, the album had a massive impact on both myself and the entire dance music scene.  


On the night, the show just failed to reach new and exciting musical territories. Soulwax seemed reluctant to push things forward and only too happy to bathe in their earlier successes.  Whilst there is no doubting Soulwax’s ability as musicians, their obvious enthusiasm for what they do, and their large fan base, those of us who look to these guys to be at the forefront of a fresh and inspiring sound can only conclude that they seemed to have stalled.  Temporarily I hope. Recent rumours afloat that the Soulwax brothers and Riton are currently collaborating to form a Krautrock inspired band. Whether this is the case or not I’m sure the guys will be around for a few more years yet.  Hopefully next time they return to Birmingham, I too will be unable to stop myself from jumping around like a mad man, and will have forgotten why I felt such a resounding sense of cynicism after this rather disappointing date. 

Review – Pete Simpson
Photos – Jenny Tolley

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