Introducing are a nine-piece band that play DJ Shadow's Endtroducing (released in 1996, the first album to be composed entirely of samples - cheers, the Guinness Book of Records) live, recreating every drum loop, esoteric vocal sample and the famous organ solo with actual instruments. An impossible task? They came to the Hare and Hounds in King's Heath last Friday to show Birmingham that it can be done.
The opening of a call for a round of applause for the DJ himself was a sign of the good humour with which the band approached their task. Despite looking like a collection of detail-loving music obsessives (and on this blog, that's not an insult) they weren't hung up on the subject matter and played with laid-back flair. This meant that the jazzier side of the record could come through and the odd little vocal parts, with the potential to be twee and annoying, passed off as geekily cool - especially the "one of them has eyes as big as Jolly Ranchers. Beautiful girl" bit on the untitled sixth track.
There was a special mention for drummer Mike Reed at the beginning of 'Stem/Long Stem', and he really deserved it. It would be clear to anyone with more than a passing acquaintance with the album that this is a project that lives or dies on the quality of the rhythm section. Fortunately Introducing have nailed it; Reed was amazing, as was bassist Rob Pollard, driving the songs forward with technical brilliance and exactly the right vibe.
The set sheds new light on the differences between live and recorded music. I listened to the parts more intently, discovering previously unnoticed details like little repeated sections and cool beats. I also enjoyed the sparser sections far more than I ever have when listening to the record.
Live music, as it's no real surprise to be reminded, holds the attention more powerfully and has a sublime energy lacking from anything tied down to endless repetitions from a medium of your choice. There's something about a group of people sharing a room with you and hearing your responses to what they're doing... people fashioning something that wouldn't exist without them, and will never exist again in the same form beyond the moments that you are sharing... a feeling amplified through the uncanny experience of music both totally familiar and new and exciting... these are the reason that make what Introducing are doing something pretty special.