808state live at Liverpool University 20 June 1990
from the Melody Maker, 30 June 1990:
YOU can't move for coaches in the roads around the University. This means either that Daniel O'Donnell is playing The Irish Centre or that we've got yet another invasion from down the M62. Fortunately, there is a noticeable lack of city-sloganned tee-shirts inside (the only James tee-shirt is on me), just lots of people in necessarily baggy attire giving it loads with the elbows. A note to the boss (see Spike Island review): people do dance before the band come on. If it's after dark and the music's loud enough.
The first noticeable difference between the records and the "band" is that some of what 808 State do live is slower and there are gaps between tracks. Long enough for a necessary visit to the Coke machine if not to get your breath back. The other difference is that no two tunes (I use the word loosely) are alike. Well, no three anyway. The sounds are inventively varied, the beats are compellingly constant, and the lasers do impressive things like spell out "808" and "MC Tunes" and "The only rhyme that bites" and pictures of fish, which fill in the rare concentration gaps when the sound is not all-encompassing.
There's not much to look at on stage: lots of men with keyboards and the odd one or two without. There's a bit of dry Mancunian drawl to let you know they're there. After a couple of songs M C Tunes arrives with two dancers. Proper dancers — choreography and all that— compared to the cheerful abandon among the audience. You try to hear the words and wonder why he hasn't got a Manchester accent. Where's John Cooper Clarke now we need him? In the past I think. This is the present, and the future doesn't matter that much while this is happening. All you need to know is noise, movement, and lots more atmosphere than the World Cup.
Report from Sounds, 30 June 1990:
IN MANY cases, attempts to transfer the vitality of House from the club floor to a live setting have met with a minimal success.
808 State, though, would seem to be both a glaring exception and a troupe with unlimited trump cards up their baggy sleeves if tonight's limb-defaming lunacy is reflected throughout the remainder of their UK tour.
Delaying the entrance while Scotland's World Cup gloom descends, the gradually multiplying shock of stagefront ravers transform the University's gaping Mountfort Hall into the biggest warehouse this side of Arthur Daley Enterprises.
Quite obviously relishing this energised build-up, 808 State then proceed to prove that their chart flirtation and omniscient position on the dance front has been achieved by - neither fluke nor the intervening M**chester midas touch.
With prime movers, Graham Massey and Martin Price dominating and directing from behind giant banks of sequencers, the State have the added attraction of flipped-out mayhem footwork man Eric, who tonight cools his paisley-clad loins as he substitutes a fetching oriental fan for the customary maracas.
Then, of course, there's MC Tunes, an inimitable secret weapon who again extends 808 State's frontiers with a string of veritable, confidence-gushing raps capable of defrosting the coolest dude.
In the end, it's these fusions and cross-pollinations – combined with Graham Massey's perfectly mellow clarinet on the likes of 'Sunrise' and the influential 'Pacific' – that make 808 State such a compelling spectacle live. Already riding a vibrant groove, they look like shrugging off all doubters during the hedonistic '90s.