Leftfield (feat. Grian Chatten) – Full Way Round15th November 2022 · 2020s, 2022, Dance, Music, Uncategorised
The hot summer night Pulp and Leftfield played in an outdoor amphitheatre in Barcelona. And I was there.
In the summer of 1996 I was taken on what would be one of the best freebies my job ever brought me: a trip to Barcelona for a private pop concert by Pulp and Leftfield. In an open-air amphitheatre. With gallons of free booze. On a hot August night.
There were 500 of us – freeloading journalists, PR people, low-level celebs (Zoe Ball, Tamara Beckwith, Kathy Lloyd, Robert Carlyle, Joe and Sam from EastEnders) and sponsors from Holsten Pils, who had splashed out a cool £1 million on the event to relaunch their rebranded “more sessionable” (to our tastebuds, exactly the same as before) bottled beer.
And, at the bottom of the hierarchy, there were 500 competition winners, your archetypal 18-30 Brits abroad, doing their very best to outdo the press in terms of bad behaviour (Note: never been done; never will be done).
Having been plied with free beer from the moment we arrived at Heathrow – they catered for a staggering 75 bottles per person, which gives you a good idea of the mayhem to follow – we were taken for a meal at a traidional Catalan restaurant (Planet Hollywood, I shit you not) and on to a nightclub with more free beer. The last thing I remember is talking to Jon Ronson and Zoe Ball at the bar.
The next day, after clearing the hangovers with another free meal, possibly involving something Spanish this time, we were taken to a park by the deserted Olympic village where waiters and waitresses brought more beer and chefs stirred vast vats of paella to soak it up.
As the sun went down but the temperature didn’t – it stayed around 29 degrees all night – we were ushered into the Teatre Grec amphitheatre where we were plied with more free drink as we waited for the music to begin.
The first act was Pulp, whom I had never seen before, and who had become the nation’s favourite band with Common People. I was blown away by them, particularly by the stage antics of the gangling Jarvis Cocker, who was as compelling a frontman as I’d ever seen.
In what would be turn out to be their last show with guitarist Russell Senior – he left six months later in disgust at having to play corporate events like this – Pulp played all those great tunes: Babies, Mis-Shapes, Sorted For Es And Whizz, Disco 2000, as well as Whiskey In The Jar, which really shouldn’t have worked, but did; culminating in a communal singalong to Common People.
By the time they finished I was three sheets to the wind, not only from the constant intake of lager but by befriending a bloke from GQ who had smuggled some skunk into Spain inside his shoe. Everyone else was in a similar state of inebriation: I remember seeing a heavily pregnant Danniella Westbrook, looking ready to pop in her skintight sheath dress, emerging unsteadily from the ladies with a drink in one hand and a credit card in the other, as she wiped her nose absentmindedly on the back of her hand.
“What a great photo that would make for you!” I enthused to my showbiz pal Dominic Mohan from The Sun, eager to show that I knew a tabloid scoop when I saw one. He gave me a sharp look and shook his head, saying: “She’s family.” Such are the strange ways of the redtops, who had no doubt already arranged some sort of exclusive on the forthcoming birth.
And then came Leftfield. I don’t think I’d ever seen a ‘dance act’ before, and I wasn’t a big fan of dance music, and I only knew one song, Open Up, and that was only because it had John Lydon singing on it. I’m not sure dance acts had even learned how to present their laptop music to a mass audience outside a club environment by 1996, so what happened next was historic; at least for me.
First a slow, cacophonous sound began from the stage, where a man with long dreads – I’m guessing this was Earl 16 – was striking two enormous conga drums with the flat of his hand, amplified to ear-bleeding proportions that made each beat sound like a thundercrack.
The metronomic rhythm began at a snail’s pace and gradually built up speed over about five minutes until, once it reached optimum level – say, 140 bpm – those drums began to be echoed by electronic rhythms from two keyboards, or laptops, operated by Neil Barnes and Paul Daley, keeping the same time.
The beats – one organic, the other digital – merged subliminally to create a powerful pulse that infected and took over your entire body, making it impossible not to dance. It was mind-blowing. I don’t remember whether they played this, and they probably didn’t. But they sounded great then, and they still sound great 30 years later, recreating that Lydon moment with their latest single Full Way Round, featuring Grian Chatten of Fontaines D.C. on vocals.