Lemonade go flat at Madame Jojo’s
Despite hailing from San Francisco by way of Brooklyn, up-and-coming three-piece Lemonade are more indebted to the blissful Balearic rhythms of European contemporaries like El Guincho and former tourmates Delorean. On their latest record Diver, their precise production and frosty synths work subtle wonders, but the jury is still out on whether those same components make for a compelling live show. Indeed, from the first note of last night’s show at Madame Jojo’s on 3rd July 2012 — their first appearance in the UK in several years — it was clear that something was amiss.
Part of the blame must lie with the venue, with its over-optimistic use of full-bore air conditioning physically repelling people from stage and its multi-tiered layout actively encouraging idle chit-chat, so often the kiss of death for any promising band’s set. It’s also safe to assume that the band’s music is more suited to scorching Ibiza beaches than it is to Soho on a waterlogged Tuesday night. But lesser bands than Lemonade have been known to triumphantly overcome such obstacles at the White Heat club night, and for all their obvious passion and likeable stage personae, they still have a long way to go in terms of live performance.
If tonight’s gig has taught us anything, it’s that a successful Balearic dance concert is nothing without rhythm. Lemonade’s melodies take some time to weave their spell on record, and in an amped-up live show singer Callan Clendenin’s anaemic vocals simply do not pass muster, so a lot of responsibility was transferred to Ben Steidel and Alex Pasternak, on synths and electronic drumkit respectively. Throughout the set, promising passages were let down all too often by over-zealous drumming or careless divergence from the click-track – all compounded by withering blasts of AC which frequently killed any momentum or build-up stone dead. Combined with a lack of dynamics, abstract visuals and a whole raft of filler, it was hard to blame the audience for resorting to talking amongst themselves, to the band’s obvious displeasure.
Only once during the main set, on new single Softkiss, did the swathes of keyboards and sampled vocals convincingly spill over into a bona fide club anthem, with ecstatically-recieved beats and a genuine melodic hook to get the crowd going. Then, as a finale, the band dropped old favourite Big Weekend – a fantastic, propulsive Frankenstein of a song complete with queasy synth riffs and deranged cackles from Clendenin. It was an inspired outro, worthy of Orbital or Cut Copy at their peak, but by that stage all but the most dedicated fans had lost interest – a real shame, since Lemonade are an extremely promising outfit, let down on the night by circumstance and a certain degree of sloppiness. Here’s hoping they don’t stay away so long this time around, and come back to prove tonight’s crowd wrong.
Photos: Helen Parish