Neon Neon - Òran Mór, Glasgow, Wed 11 Sep 2013
Gruff Rhys and Boom Bip's live collaboration shows great potential but contains too many weak links
Gruff Rhys claims that not enough songs have been written about how left-wing Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli smuggled the manuscript for Doctor Zhivago out of the Soviet Union and then hid it under his mattress while he went clubbing in Berlin. To redress the balance, he’s done two. It’s anecdotes like this that hint at the potential of what Neon Neon (Gruff Rhys and Boom Bip’s pop lovechild) are doing in this show, a stripped-down concert version of the biographical theatrical production the group made with the National Theatre of Wales earlier this year.
But the transition from the bells-and-whistles multimedia experience to touring gig means that the undoubtedly fascinating film footage is relegated to backcloth, mostly obscured by band and kit. Soaring space-rock instrumentals like ‘Neon Theme’ are the highlights of the show, which ultimately fails to deliver on their revved-up, cinematic promise.
Rhys’ deadpan, often flat, sing-speak style, charming in other contexts, doesn’t match the shiny 80s electro-pop sound, and Cate le Bon’s contributions as guitarist and vocalist prove surprisingly disappointing. Witty faux-revolutionary placards (‘resist phoney encores’ is one) adorn the stage, Rhys’ enthusiasm for his subject is infectious, and the sound has many great moments. But there are too many weak links to make this a satisfying experience.