Gig review: Lightspeed Champion, Spectrum, 3/1/11

Lightspeed Champion

Lightspeed Champion Pic: Sevana Ohandjanian

Standing in Spectrum’s tiny band room awaiting Lightspeed Champion felt like being part of a secret club. With barely a hundred people present, the support act Bleeding Knees Club received an enthusiastic response, though it may have been coming from their friends from the sound of things. If it wasn’t enough that the show had been on the threshold of cancellation, this rescheduled show in a new (read: much smaller) venue gave meaning to ‘intimate.’

Lightspeed Champion aka Devonte Hynes’ success is indefinable; in the UK he was praised by NME, appeared on topical music quiz shows – for Christ’s sake the man features on a Basement Jaxx song! Yet he never, for want of a better term, took off. Perhaps it is the frighteningly confessional, occasionally crude, style of his lyricism, or the expansive range of music he channels into his records, but Hynes cannot be pigeonholed.

The dedicated fans that were present on this night witnessed something beyond special. Hynes was electric, tongue firmly in cheek with a long black wig and dressed in a fringed shirt. Although alone on stage he recreated his multi-layered songs with backing tracks, electric and acoustic guitar and piano, singing constantly. Whether prostrate over his acoustic in Galaxy Of The Lost or thrashing about with his electric on his rendition of Divinyls’ Boys In Town, Hynes’ presence was inescapably magnetic. He’s a virtuosic talent, playing the guitar in borderline Hendrix reverence, an unexpected discovery considering his music has never been the place to experience face-melting solos.

Leaping into the crowd, dancing in a circle formed around him, hugging those who got close enough – the only word to describe it is free. It was a performance free of pretension, of us vs them attitude between artist and audience. He sings of our deepest secrets, fears and heartbreaks with such frankness, that after pouring his heart out on stage, it was only right for us to embrace him right back.

If you weren’t there, you not only missed one of Lightspeed Champion’s last ever shows, you missed an evening of true communal joy.

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