Review: Jon Hopkins, Boiler Shop, Newcastle

Jon Hopkins
Jon Hopkins

Newcastle’s gig-goers were spoiled for choice on Saturday night, with options ranging from the pop classics of Boy George and Belinda Carlisle to the noisy feast of The Cluny’s Brave Exhibitions Festival.

The hottest ticket of all, though, was for the Boiler Shop, which hosted an eagerly anticipated appearance from esteemed electronic producer Jon Hopkins – one of only five UK dates on the Londoner’s current European tour.

Having risen to prominence as a protégé of Brian Eno, the 39-year-old has developed into one of the UK dance scene’s leading lights, so it was little surprise to see the show sell out months in advance.

What raw ticket sales don’t convey, however, is the broad church he attracts. Sure, the crowd was packed with thrill seekers, but the age range was far more comprehensive than one might expect, and certainly not your typical horde of millennial ravers.

There’s plenty which sets Hopkins apart from his contemporaries – a pair of Mercury nominations; collaborations with Scottish folk musician King Creosote; production credits for Coldplay – yet perhaps most significant is the sheer emotional scope his music encompasses.

A truly stunning audio-visual spectacle, tonight’s 80-minute set swoons expertly between brazen techno bangers and moments of climatic euphoria; relying on introspection and spectral beauty as much as timely surges in tempo and thumping barrels of bass.

It’s bangin,’ but also truly beautiful – from an initial gambit that’s essentially a live playback of the opening to his latest album, Singularity, to an encore featuring radical reinterpretations of cuts from dance giants Disclosure and artful indie group Wild Beasts.

Though there’s little of the ambience so prevalent in his studio work, a similar sense of wonderment pervades throughout; channelled through a masterful amalgamation of sliced beats and dizzying, kaleidoscopic synths.

In full flow it’s an astonishing, engrossing experience - and it’d be churlish too not to mention Nathan Fake, who preceded Hopkins with an excellent hour-long opening slot.

An acclaimed and increasingly popular artist in his own right, the Norfolk producer is the type of support you’d expect from a tour needing to shift a few extra tickets - so to have him added to an already sold out bill came as an extra treat.

Trading from a far more starker, more minimal palette, his set did sag a little towards its conclusion, though nevertheless provided a terrific, technicolour warm-up prior to a superlative main event.

ALISTAIR WELFORD