Feeder at the Cambridge Junction – review

live reviews "a band unwilling to settle for traditional rock tropes some twenty years into their career"

The almighty Feeder returned last year with “All Bright Electric”, which reached the Top 10 of the UK charts. Founding members Grant Nicholas and Taka Hirose told the NME that after their four-year hiatus, they felt “reborn”, ready to tour the country once again. Feeder still enjoys a substantial following, having made a significant impact on British alternative rock in the late 90s/early noughties alongside the likes of Stereophonics, Ash and Muse, prior to the latter’s worldwide domination. For those who hold those years between Cool Britannia and the rise of indie as a golden age of self-confident and assured rock ‘n roll, the anticipation at Cambridge’s Junction was quite something.

Following a superb opening set by Moses, the lights dimmed. David Bowie’s Space Oddity played over the monitors, as a swarm of wasps were projected onto the wall at the back of the stage. The Bowie masterpiece gave way to an ever-louder buzzing noise, referencing the wasp on the cover of “All Bright Electric” and heralding the arrival of Feeder.

Their 21-song set covered newer material from the previous two albums, interpolated with fan favourites from the early 90s, and saving the Holy Trinity that is “Buck Rogers”, “Come Back Around” and “Just A Day” for key stand-out moments. The most impressive song from the set was new-album-opener “Universe of Life”, a heavy track with effected vocals, chromatic riffs and a lo-fi attitude that demonstrated a band unwilling to settle for traditional rock tropes some twenty years into their career.

Contrary to how powerful Feeder could be on tracks such as “Lost and Found” and “Sentimental”, lead singer Grant Nicholas was quiet and sparing with his audience interactions. Whilst some bands blur the distinction between performing and audience interaction through participation and conversation, Feeder’s night was clearly one just for the music. The final 10 songs began to move away from newer material into older territory, “Come Back Around” and “Just The Way I’m Feeling” building towards “Buck Rodgers”… which changed its opening! Gone was the iconic strummed riff, instead replaced by a subdued, lackadaisical excuse of a start that took the bite out of the rest of the song. It’s not uncommon for artists to alter their songs as a means of evolution, but the genius of such reinvention is to ensure the heart of the song isn’t lost in the process.

Following enthusiastic response towards the climax of the set, Feeder’s encore featured “Seven Days In The Sun” – a very good choice – and “Just A Day”, which was very much the song to witness live. Whilst it was great to see a band of such significance after all these years – and still working at a critically significant level – I can’t help feeling that I hadn’t witnessed a show, so much as a set of songs. Sound design, impressive A/V and tight backing musicians are all well and good, but it never felt as if the crowd truly lost themselves in the music. Whilst Feeder consider themselves “reborn” after four years away, I hope that they can capture that same intent live as they did in the studio last year.

Words by James Proctor
Image from Rich Etteridge

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