Review By Nikki Eenink
Somehow, everyone knows Fatboy Slim. He’s a household name for 12-year old footy kids, classic-rock listening Dads and mums in sparkly pants. Are we all born knowing him? Where do we find him? I have so many questions, and even more after his absolute smash-hit sold out show at Melbourne’s Sidney Myer Music Bowl. There is no one more deserving of the term; cultural icon.
Despite the heavy rain which left Melbourne covered in mud and dew (just for something different), the team organising the absolute sensory extravaganza waiting for us at Sidney Myer Music Bowl were not perturbed. Everything went on exactly at their start time, with maybe 10 minutes max in between each act. This was one well-oiled machine.
I find electronica hard to write about in general, it’s not a
They played (song) and then (song).
It has such a vibe to it. So let me paint you a picture.
First up was Anna Lunoe, originally born in Sydney, she now lives in Los Angeles doing DJ stints at major festivals like, Coachella and Lollapalooza. As I waited in the rain for my friend, her music started washing over us – courtesy of the venue’s incredible speakers. It was slow, reverby, almost boozy. It was so understated, but she controls sound so magically each song bled into the next and the next until you were in a trance. Completely under a spell. Whether you were out the front scanning tickets, inside eating tacos (they were A++) or dancing, you were taken to Lunoe’s world. It’s a place I imagine is a lot like a club in some movie. Orange light and heavy shadows, as you walk towards the dancefloor behind a waiter with a drinks tray. Listen to Cotton Candy Lemonade and tell me you don’t see it? Unbelievably good vibes. She was the perfect opener, she didn’t leave us drained, she left us soothed – suddenly unbothered by the rain and the cold. Her stage presence is so gentle and she almost becomes her music, as do we.
Second openers were Confidence Man, a band who I have seen live a few times and always loved, are doing a rare DJ set. Now, even though I love Confidence Man’s normal goofy dancing and chemistry – seeing them DJ, you really get an appreciation of how deep that chemistry runs. Janet Planet (Grace Stephenson) and Sugar Bones (Aidan Moore) have swapped out their shiny 60s space-age dresses and suit, and are now in all black, crouched over the table and pumping out banger after banger. They describe themselves as “a portable party”, and it’s undeniably true. My friend once used Confidence Man to convince a car-full of Frenchmen into giving them a ride to their AirBNB in Paris. No matter how tired, no matter what native language, no matter how sore you are – Planet and Bones will have you on your feet and feeling as good as new in no time. Having collaborated with people like Dj Boring you can expect some super lowkey, vibey tracks which will get into your veins and keep you going all night. The lights start to pick up at the end of their set and the tempo starts to go up. A remix of Does it Make You Feel Good? Leads us into our headliner. We are already on a high.
I was not prepared for the over two-hour long, absolute extravaganza I was about to experience at the hands of Norman Quentin Cook – better known as Fatboy Slim. Most of the crowd there is over the age of 40, but when I tell you I have never smelled so much weed at a concert – I’m not exaggerating. Everyone there, is getting rowdy. Everyone is young again. Let’s. Fucking. Go.
I was a little nervous when I saw the projection screens at either side of the “bowl” turn off and on, the Mac rainbow wheel of death staring us all down. But then all three screens went black, and when they game back on, red velvet curtains started opening up all those screens. Backed by the sounds of electricity and a sharp white light on stage, Fatboy is in the building. And he is wearing khaki pants and a Keith Haring shirt. He looks like someone’s cool dad at a Barbeque. The first track starts with some UK DNB-style techno, the distorted lyrics go;
When they said the music was too loud/ We kept dancing
And the suddenly.
I’m in Melbourne/ Bitch
And the crowd goes nuts. Everywhere I look all I can see is a sea of bobbing heads and thrown-up hands, we are an ocean of 11,000, it’s intensely beautiful.
What surprised me most about Cook’s set, is how visual it is. Everything from celebrity-face morphs, into Slim repeatedly swallowing his own head, to his body changing from fat to slim (Fatboy Slim, get it?), Keith Haring-esque men dancing – you name it, he’s got it going on.
Obviously, Praise You, The Rockerfeller Skank and Right Here, Right Now are his biggest hits. And he is such an absolute pro at this that he manages to play each song 3 or 4 times, each in an entirely new way. He remixes Can’t Get No (Satisfaction) with The Rockerfeller Skank and uses DeepFake technology to have Obama deliver a speech to himself behind the presidential podium, but the speech is the lyrics to Right Here, Right Now.
There were a few highlight moments for me. In one instance of his DeepFakery, we get “Bill Murray” delivering a speech by American Preacher Jack Van Impe – which has been at the front of Sex on the Streets, a highly underrated Slim track. It’s so silly, so unbelievably goofy. At the end of the song, we get a black and white photo of Slim outside a house, facedown, on the ground. Two sentences flash up. The first; Drive Safely. The second, and most important; Don’t be a Racist. Also including the iconic Big Lebowski scene where The Dude is at the Bowling Alley in his dream floating through the legs of sexy women, and then there are some guys in red with scissors (Good thing this isn’t a Big Lebowski review).
I Just Came For The Music has some great wisdom; “I ain’t here to fuck girls/ I ain’t here to take drugs/ I ain’t here to start fights/ I just came for the music”
Unfortunately, at the beat drop, when confetti, strobe and fucking fire come out of the stage. Literal flames. My caveman brain can’t handle it. This is absolutely bananas. The crowd is going to take absolutely none of this advice. But it’s true, we are all here for the music. It is so hard to keep the attention of a crowd fighting to stay upright on the mud (some people lost), but he manages to do it. We are literally eating out of his hand, we can’t get enough. And he loves it.
I’ve never seen a man who loves what he is doing as much as I did watching Fatboy Slim. Running into the crowd, demanding high-fives, old-man dancing on stage, swinging around his headphones around – he is soaking it all in, and he is just clearly genuinely thrilled to be up there doing this. Not a shred of narcissism in it, he looks genuinely so happy when people will bounce with him when he tells us to and he just wants to boogie with us all. His energy and zest for life have stayed with me since the concert.
Not only is he insanely fun, the skill on this man. His set is like a winding tour through 90s, through to 2010s electronic subgenres. The precise timing of his visuals to his set, is insane. We are talking he has to be beat perfect, every time. And every time, he is. I was so lucky to be able to see Fatboy Slim the night after this as well, and my friend with me just kept whispering “he’s so good. Nikki, he’s so fucking good you weren’t kidding.” I’d never joke about that. I feel insanely blessed to have seen this man’s talent in the flesh. Do yourself a favour, add Fatboy Slim to your bucket list, because his set is something that is going to live with me forever. He perfectly balances having fun, goofing around and not taking yourself too seriously, while also taking his craft incredibly seriously, and he is a master.
I could (and will) go on and on and on about this until the day I die. And when that day comes, you better play Fatboy Slim at my funeral.
I could not have named a single Fatboy Slim “fan” (someone who rides and dies by the Slim). I couldn’t have told you anyone I know who would have fought for those last-minute Tixel tickets and fought through the mud to see him. But as all 11,000 of us poured out from the venue, it hit me. How can you not be a Fatboy Slim fan. Consider me fanned. A mega-fan. An obsessive follower to his cult of 90s DNB, insane visuals and Regular Joe Charm. Imagine not loving Fatboy Slim? It’s actually not possible.
Weren’t you listening to Slim?
Eat! Sleep! Rave! Repeat!
Let’s go people, the night is young!