If you were to run into Tom Vek in an everyday situation – say you’re in Gregg’s buying a sausage roll and he’s behind you in the queue – you would have no idea a bloke like him would be a cult electronic hero. With his black, thick-rimmed glasses and massive head (hey, big heads = big brains, I can attest to this, I have a big head too), he looks more like a boffin who should be in a lab coat, working out the cure for cancer.
But no, thankfully this anorak has focussed his energies and synapses towards music. In certain circles, Vek is a big deal, and understandably so: he’s a producer as well as being an adept musician, showing off his prowess Sunday night in Liverpool. Although he will be showcasing at CMJ in New York this month, Vek is just not massive enough stateside for anyone, much less himself, to take the financial risk of him touring there, so I’d never seen him until the night.
Opening at the Kazimier were Leeds four-piece Fun Adults. They’ll remind you a lot of Wild Beasts; like the Kendal band and Vek, they take full advantage of both traditional rock band and electronic elements. However, I mention Wild Beasts because this band has two vocalists that take turns with the spotlight and both favour a falsetto, admittedly not my favourite.
The real question we’re left with is, does the world really need another Wild Beasts? To their credit, Fun Adults can be much more dancier and funkier than the Kendalites, which is always a plus in my book, and they also showed their versatility in track ‘Eavesdropper’. Starting the song quietly as the singer gently strummed his acoustic guitar, what a shock it was as the number built into a monster, the funky drummed rhythm propelling the song towards its climax.
Vek had taken a 6-year hiatus between the critically acclaimed debut from 2005, ‘We Have Sound’, and 2011’s ‘Leisure Seizure’, so waiting another 3 years for ‘Luck’ to appear wasn’t a huge surprise. However, you could tell easily that many of the punters in attendance at the lovely Kazimier, a Sound City venue near and dear to us TGTFers, were fans from way back, cheering and whooping at the mere mention of “..in a black 1989 Mercedes Benz…” of ‘Nothing but Green Lights’. One of them Liverpudlians even went so far as humming – loudly and emphatically – the too familiar opening notes of ‘’, with Vek smiling, insisting, “but that’s not one of mine. I think you’re at the wrong gig!”, all before his sequencer / guitarist Sam (who Vek referred to as 5 AM) repeated the same notes with buttons of his sequencer pressed in quick and impressive succession.
A lot of people who aren’t into electronic music, and who are sceptical of the genre like my own mother, think these kinds of artists aren’t real musicians, that everything they do is computer generated and there is no real artistry to their sound. So I was actually quite pleasantly surprised to see Vek showing off his guitar and bass playing abilities, proving to anyone who needed evidence that unlike the manufactured pop stars of today, he is an artist not borne of a well-stocked studio but of true musicianship along with quite good production chops!
Where to begin? Vek played for over an hour and a half with minimal stoppage time between songs. It was, in short, an electro head’s dream. I thought several times during the set I might need to pinch myself to confirm this show was actually happening before my very eyes, on the same stage I’d seen Glass Animals and We Have Band unleash their own selections of synths on a Sound City audience this past May. One can see why Vek’s voice divides opinion: its nasal, atonal qualities make it sound nearly robotic, but if you consider it in the grand scheme of his music, it completely works as another one of his instruments, a disaffected, unemotional player while the instrumentation serves to bring the funk.
As he’s got several albums to his name, Vek had an incredible back catalogue to draw from, while also bringing to the fore several of the tracks from ‘Luck’. One of the most successful of these were ‘Pushing Your Luck’, which benefitted from a surprise mix into Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s ‘Push It’. Imagine it being sung in Vek’s voice! After it was played and Vek was sure about its warm reception, he quipped, “everyone needs a little Salt ‘n’ Pepa in their life every once in a while”. Indeed, Mr Vek. ‘Aroused’, from ‘Leisure Seizure’, with its massive trilled beats, reverberated off the walls of the Kazimier. If a man who looks as geeky as Vek can pull off a song about sex and get a whole crowd in Liverpool all worked up, it gives us all hope, doesn’t it?
His set ended with recent single ‘Sherman (Animals in the Jungle)’, the entire crowd moving and grooving to every beat, proving even 3 years out from ‘Leisure Seizure’, he’s still got it. Like so many indie acts I love, I wish for Vek to do massively well commercially around the world. At the same time though, watching him at the Kazimier last night play to a very decently-sized crowd, all of whom clearly loved and enjoyed his music, made you feel like you were part of something very intimate and special and I wouldn’t have traded anything in the world for the experience.
After the cut: Tom Vek’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: Tom Vek with Fun Adults at Liverpool Kazimier – 12th October 2014