Innerpartysystem, Bar Academy, Birmingham

'Heart Of Fire' is immediately recognisable from its stadium-rock style intro, but nothing tonight sounds like a carbon copy of their LP.

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Date: 7 Oct 2008 | By Shefali Srivastava | Rating: 4
Innerpartysystem, Bar Academy, Birmingham

The Bar Academy in Birmingham comes resolutely under the heading of 'hole in the wall'. Be assured, it's a dive, and is where Innerpartysystem are playing tonight. On arrival at 7pm, the doors are just about to be opened and there's a modest queue of around fifty waiting in the waning light. After being let in, a quick bound up the stairs reveals an unassuming space which is largely empty, and a disappointingly small ground-level stage of matchbox proportions tucked away in the corner, the view of which is already obstructed by a horde of fifteen year-olds, all eager to get the best spot.

Still, it's not all bad news. Finding one of the wall seats near the stage and standing up on it yields the pay-off that everything on stage can be seen and from a good proximity too, without the bone crushing that goes on in the mosh pit. Innerpartysystem come on almost immediately after the second support finish, but only to do an interminably long sound check - the bizarre, spacey sounds and effects as they test their various gear out sound like something out of a Dr Who episode, and only heighten the collective anticipation. Frontman Patrick Nissley walks past several times back and forth from the stage, and this reviewer can't work up the courage to squeak out a simple, if clichéd, "hey, your album rocks!", so remains mute.

The lights dim to cheers and applause, and the band launch into a thunderous version of current single 'Die Tonight, Live Forever', immediately followed by their cover of Joy Division's 'Transmission', a track that nonetheless has an impressive number of people singing along. The level of familiarity everyone here seems to have for the songs is really something, considering their debut album has only been out for a mere seven days. In fact, guitarist Kris Barman asks at one point, with a cheeky grin on his face, "so, how many of you have bought our album?", and is greeted with a pleasing spread of outstretched hands. However, it's not until third song into the set, 'The Way We Move', that the crowd really lets loose and gives themselves up to pure hedonism, which is in keeping with its ebullient dance-rock vibe and is a definite highlight.

'Heart Of Fire' is immediately recognisable from its stadium-rock style intro, but nothing played tonight sounds like a carbon copy of their LP. Unlike on the album, the guitar is very much in evidence here and vies for equal attention with the the synth and processed beats instead of taking a back seat. This gives them an unexpectedly raw and edgy sound live, which is in contrast to the overly polished and metallic quality that often plagues the electro genre. And by God, are they loud, incredibly loud, to the extent that the instrumentation drowns out the singing, regrettably. Nowhere are all these elements brought together better than on 'Last Night In Brooklyn', a mid-tempo piece of brilliance with a distinctive hook that alternates between soothing vocal tones, the gently atmospheric bridge, and the passive-aggressive cold shower of the chorus, with Nissley screaming the primary line of "I float over you" in a voice of utter frustration towards the end.

Sadly, this is where the evening ended for this reviewer, having to rely on the vagaries of the public transport system. But what was seen and heard lived up to expectations and fuelled a desire for more, much more. It could be speculated that as a band, these sentiments are exactly what they'd hope for from their fans, and if this is so, they've succeeded admirably.