What is there even to say about Fatboy Slim? Not only is Norman Cook a pioneer in the electronic music industry, he’s been a mainstay for over almost 30 years. He’s the Godfather. King of Kings. And at the ripe age of 51, Cook is still a rogue firework. On stage, he oozes technical prowess and sharp, honed talent. With a cheeky smirk on his face, it’s as if he has an amazing secret that he’s going to share with us for just these next two hours.
The Shrine Expo Hall is situated in the heart of downtown near the dorms at USC and man, did it show. While weaving through pouty 18 year olds upset about their fake IDs being taken, I actually heard some bro lamenting about missing Nervo (the opener) while his other bro inquired “who is this Fatboy Slim dude… I’ve never even heard of him” *facepalm*. Breaking news, Bro: If Fatboy Slim didn’t start conceptualizing what you know as “EDM” over twenty years ago, none of us would even be here right now. Including your precious Nervo (side note: those chicks are badass).
Once you got inside, the scene was entirely different. The Expo Hall is downright enormous and since a surprising number of people cleared out after Nervo, there was plenty of room to dance and move around. Their loss is our gain. We walked in the cavernous Expo Hall just as the lights began to fade from dark blue to black. Seconds to spare. The crowd was going insane.
He began with the anthem “Eat. Sleep. Rave. Repeat.” – a little tune he pulled together with Riva Starr and Beardyman last year that was promptly taken into the stratosphere via the fool-proof hit machine that is The Calvin Harris Remix. Nothing turns the crowd up quite like this one—an excellent way to begin this late-night set. From the instant he took the stage, Cook was a firecracker. His physicality is larger-than-life and his stage presence is mischievous. He was like a rascally conductor on the stage—even though I think there was a bit of pre-recording done, I didn’t even care because he’s such a performer.
From there, Fatboy settled into a legendary set of hard-hitting electro. A driving blend of acid house, trip-hop and electro propelled this Thursday night forward at a backbreaking pace. He was relentless from start to finish. He rolled out some amazing big beat reworks of “Boneless” (one of the best things Steve Aoki ever did), the Sugar Hill Gang’s classic “Jump On It” and even had some fun with Nancy Sinatra’s sultry “Bang Bang”.
Though these remixes were #flawless, everybody will agree that the best moments of the evening came when Cook dropped into his classic Fatboy Slim anthems – even if only for a second. He satisfied with small glimpses of “Right Here, Right Now” and “What The F*ck”, but the moment everybody was waiting for came with the dynamite delivery of “The Rockefeller Skank” (probably the first real electronic music I ever heard – shout out to Now That’s What I Call Music! 3). Fatboy Slim knows how to seamless integrate vocals into driving, acid-house beats – and not just your typical female pop-vocalist of the modern age, but rap, spoken word and other bizarre things. His music makes me feel like the coolest cat in town.
As a filmmaker, I can’t write this review without mentioning the brilliant video production. This transcended the typical EDM-trippy-patterns-and-colors-blah-blah-type-stuff. They blended found footage in new ways and drew on references to cultural icons like Hunter S. Thompson, Martin Scorsese and Lou Reed. The most interesting element was the many different versions of Cook’s face they incorporated. From a maniacal clown to a robot face made of Roland synthesizer elements – all different sizes and colors of Norman Cook were on display.
Bringing the performance full circle, Fatboy Slim closed down the evening with a reprise of “Eat. Sleep. Rave. Repeat”. As the song slowed and seemingly went to sleep, we suddenly realized that the end of a landmark performance was upon us. We stood in the back of the auditorium in awe, basking in the beautiful glow that the massive stage cast upon the audience.
Fatboy Slim is a whole ‘nother monster. His skill and vision are incomparable (and they’ve been that way for decades). If you EVER have the chance to see this performance live, do not miss it under any circumstance. Even if his set doesn’t start until 12:30AM on a Thursday night (Friday morning) and you have a meeting at 9:00 am – it’s worth it. Trust me.