Holy Ghost – Live Review

08/07/2010

By Emma Roy Williams

My knowledge of Holy Ghost, before I went to see them, could best be described as ‘cursory’ but those with their ears to the ground at club nights in Manchester such as Homoelectric and Now Wave, have been singing the praises of Holy Ghost for a while, so it is fitting that Will Tramp and DJ’s from Now Wave are billed to play tunes after the main event. The only question is: can Holy Ghost replicate the excitement their tunes create on the dance floor, live? One of the hardest tasks for a group, who could quite rightly be described as trendy, is to prove they are more than that.

I arrive at Deaf Institute at 10pm and the crowd is decidedly thin, which is to be expected on a Thursday night when all the students have gone home, but still it is disappointing given the hype around them. In support was, SBTRKT AND SAMPHA with one half, looking decidedly like, Carlton from the Fresh Prince of Bel- Air, and given the static nature of their show, I don’t think there would be any harm in throwing in a few Carlton- esque moves, but I don’t think the Carlton moves would have quite matched his monotone electro vocals. The only attempt at wackiness is SBTRKT wearing a pretty impressive African voodoo mask complete with white beard that dangles precariously over his controls. As for the music, there are flashes of brilliance, by SBTRKT, who, pulls of an impressive five, minute solo on the drum machine, but, aside from that, there was little that made me want to know more about SBTRKT AND SAMPHA. Plus, if I went in to a record shop I wouldn’t know how to pronounce their name.

Le Baron - Tokyo 2.10.08 | HOLY GHOST!Holy Ghost said if they were to play live, they would have to ‘get it right’ having set such high standards for themselves they have to work hard. They are a band who, are currently touring most of the world and as a result look comfortable playing live. Two have now become four, with Holy Ghost employing an additional bass player and synth player to fill the gap made by the lack of computer, the two founder members, Nicholas Millheiser and Alex Frankel take up the drums, keyboards and vocals.

Following in the footsteps of their mentor DFA main man, James Murphy, they set about entertaining the crowd with energy and enthusiasm and use all the tools at their disposal to produce a lot of noise. Having to replicate what a computer does, their performance is precise making sure every lick of the drum is even and the vocals are on time. Being so busy means they have little time to look up and engage with the crowd. One rare interchange involves Nicholas Millheiser saying thank you to the crowd for turning out, he asks Alex Frankel to say thank you too, but he doesn’t and Millheiser excuses him by saying ‘it’s alright he is saying thank you on the inside’ it was only when I shout ‘say thank- you’ that he issues a short little thank you. He is obviously too busy being a human drum machine to acknowledge the crowd. And despite winning fans all the time they are still a relatively new band who, can’t afford to lose any fans either.

And it doesn’t really look like they are, Holy Ghost produce an atmosphere that doesn’t feel like a typical gig; once they get into their swing people are dancing and having fun. This is dance music with integrity; musicians who stand up and prove that the music they make on computers can be played live, while still making music that is suitable for the disco. Holy Ghost are, yet another, string to add to the DFA bow of class acts. James Murphy would be proud.




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