LIVE REVIEW: Fatboy Slim, M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool, 12/11/2021
Norman Cook aka Fatboy Slim is without a doubt, one of the most iconic pioneers of dance music in Britain. Records such as You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby and Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars make it no surprise that Fatboy Slim is selling out arenas across the world.
There is no denying that this show was not his best, although Cook seemed into it, and brought the energy, his hand-picked setlist was completely bizarre. Moving my way into the crowd as opener Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat began to play, and with beers in hand, everyone’s mood was sky high. As the drop hit and trippy visuals of Norman Cook’s topless body being enlarged and slimmed were appearing on the rather small screens, there is no faulting that the first four minutes were the best minutes of the gig.
When you’re making the journey, and paying the money to see Fatboy Slim, you want to see Fatboy Slim – admittedly some remixes of songs like Juice by Lizzo are not unwelcome from time to time, but the truth is, that night I didn’t see Fatboy Slim, I saw the equivalent of a DJ set from my local trashy club. What followed the opening minutes was simply about half an hour of what felt like the same average drum and bass drop time after time after time. Even the keenest of Fatboy Slim fans were looking around needing more substances to try and enjoy the gig, the arena bar may have made record profits that night, it wasn’t a rave, it was awkward.
As the set went on, people would start dancing to the occasional remix of a well-known track, but it would inevitably end in a pretty average and disappointing drop. Fatboy Slim really is not comparable to the dazzling live sets of the likes of Chemical Brothers and Basement Jaxx.
On another note, the stage positioning which saw Norman Cook take the centre of the arena is not a set well-designed to get the crowd going. One of the best parts of big arena dance gigs is the visuals, and if you were on the floor, who let’s face it, are the most willing to dance, then why give them such a neck-aching view of the visuals? Regardless, the visuals were pretty weak, but if you wanted to see them from the floor, be prepared to warm up your neck. The visuals that were directly above Norman Cook were also miniscule.
The lack of creativity with the stage lighting was also laughable – it felt like a glorified cheap club night. Why the light production saw the crowd lit-up most of the time and creating virtually no atmosphere was a very strange call. You almost felt a bit awkward dancing if you were sober. The very best dance arena gigs make you feel mesmerised by the huge visuals, with the music blasting into your ears, sending everyone into a frenzy of dance, but this gig wasn’t that… it wasn’t even remotely close.
Throughout the set, occasional glimpses of hits such as Fucking in Heaven, Praise You, and Star 69 were snook into tracks as if Norman Cook was teasing the crowd saying to the 10,000+ crowd, ‘this is what you could have had’.
For instance, on the extremely rare occasion where he played the brilliantly done Greta Thunberg remix of Right Here, Right Now, as the drop approached and people began to get excited, some trashy drum and bass drop completely drowned out the famous synth line that makes this song so popular.
As the set neared its end, an encore begun with Rockafeller Skank, finally we were all going to get the tracks people have paid £50 to see, but no, not on Norman Cook’s watch. As the set ended, we were all even more disappointed as it seemed as if the encore was going to potentially save the set with a 20-minute blast of his hits, but as Rockafeller Skank ended and the lights came on, there were no calls of ‘one more song’ to be heard.
As you may be able to tell, this was an arena gig to remember for all the wrong reasons. Fatboy Slim may be an icon, but we know he is capable of giving so much more live – he should probably start with playing a lot more Fatboy Slim songs.
Written By: Joe Loughran