Tom Vek


In another world, Tom Vek probably deserves to be massive.  His recorded output is always unique and interesting: Plumbing the archives of electronic pop, he can achieve melodic dissonance, looped grunge and electro-wobble in the space of a single album, and this is enough to tempt me to Gorilla to see if he can transition from studio to stage.

His brand of dance rock should translate brilliantly live, but sadly tonight I am disappointed. He is an accomplished player, and there is nothing offensive that happens, but there is little to stand out or that is memorable about the set.  When after 4 songs the excitement a live band should generate hasn’t materialized, you know it won’t happen.  Note perfect, nicely constructed songs, and some choreographed hand-jive might cut it at a certain level, but this was a performance lacking sufficient depth or passion to kick-start any real connection for me. At his best, Tom cuts loose with a degree of abandon – ‘Trying to do better’, ‘Nothing But Green Lights’ and finale ‘Sherman’ all hit the spot, but these flashes of energy are rare tonight, and too studied in their dispatch.

Constrained and restrained, it appears Tom Vek is playing at front-man, rather than showing the commitment that great live performers need. He wants to rock but it’s inhibited, soulless and spineless. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, and he’s certainly intelligent enough to know what appeals.  But it’s one thing to be a Brainiac at work in a studio, taking years to perfect each bleep or sample, but quite another to deliver a performance on-stage, and Tom appears so self-obsessed and self-conscious that he cannot get truly lost in the beats and emotions around him. It all feels a bit awkward to me, no more so than when he attempts the acoustic oddity The girl you wouldn’t leave for Any other girl’.  It’s an over  14’s show tonight, and the lack of any gig etiquette by the young crowd mean this intevention is drowned out by the talking heads in the crowd.  Indeed, the reaction to Vek’s sole acoustic offering is telling.  “Horrible! Who the hell told him he could sing?” is the reaction from the man to my left, who has otherwise smiled and danced along all evening.

I realise then what the problem is:  Vek’s audience know what they’ve paid to see, what they expect and what they demand, and what they want is his recorded performance replayed for them, note for note, verbatim. And playing live it’s a different challenge. On record, wandering through his noise jungle like a bemused explorer, Tom the bedroom producer can dip into his various conceits and archives, hone and polish and create his magic. Live it comes asunder and while he may try to balance and compensate this with some artfully struck poses, dipping into his box of tricks he comes up empty handed

For a live show, it’s all too studied, too “cool”, too researched: And as a companion sums it up “How can you be called innovative when you’ve spent over 10 years f%$ing about in your bedroom?”

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