The Brighton Dome, set in the picturesque Pavilion Gardens, is a concert hall. As such the crowd was seated, and with a huge screen behind the stage this gave the proceedings a distinctly cinematic edge. Billed as an audio-visual experience, Jon Hopkins’ Immunity tour, true to his latest album, was a blend of both bassy, rhythmic electronic music and clean, intricately textured instrumental songs involving a grand piano and a violin.
This movement between classical and electronic was eased by Hopkins’ old school technical set-up; the analog synths and 16-bit-or-lower sample rate creating an earthy, organic sound. All of the sounds produced – clicks and creaks and reverberating bass – were perfectly in sync with everything on screen, from weird angular shapes to journeys through remote landscapes or expressive faces telling the stories of videos like that of Open Eye Signal or Collider.
At times it felt odd to be sat down, especially during the earlier part of the set where the screen flashed blocks of colour and static to a heavy techno beat. Hopkins himself was partially obscured, the focus distinctly on the screen behind. When he took to the piano (accompanied by long time collaborators Davide Rossi and Leo Abrahams on violin and guitar respectively) you became glad for the seat, mesmerised by the extraordinary visuals and gently tugging waves of sound which left you spellbound and unable to distinguish your own body from your chair, held in thrall to the shifting shapes in front of you.
The first track to get everyone up out of their seats was Open Eye Signal, in a ripple effect starting with a few people at the front, others gradually standing up (perhaps to see over their heads) until by the end of the song everyone was dancing, earning a nod of approval and thanks from Hopkins. The audience respectfully took their seats for the next track; another ambient piano song which again held everybody entranced.
I found myself conflicted throughout between a state of complete peace and a strong desire to hurl myself around like the protagonist in the visceral Collider video. Collider is one of the more infectious tracks from the album; it contains a steady club rhythm and saw the audience on their feet. Tracks like Immunity itself are more ambient and less aggressive, influences like Brian Eno and Sigur Rós more evident.
If you went expecting something like Hopkins’ boiler room set you might have been surprised; indeed I heard complaints about the seating arrangements being ‘too tame’. There were also bewildered comments that things had got ‘too ravey’. But if you went anticipating something like the mixture of sounds at play, it was pulled off more perfectly than you could have imagined. Segues between soft and hard, intense and calm, texturally layered and completely stripped back were all completely seamless. It was a life affirming performance from a truly unique artist – one whose records you’re compelled to go back and revisit once you’ve seen his live show, if only in a vain attempt to recapture the experience.
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