- DJ Harvey has made a few London appearances since he returned from stateside exile in 2012: a couple of festival slots, plus appearances at fabric, Southbank Centre and Tobacco Dock. But there was some real intrigue surrounding his return to Ministry Of Sound. This, after all, is the club where he held a residency in the early '90s, stepping up to the booth after DJs like Frankie Knuckles and Tony Humphries. A couple of generations of London clubbers crawled out of the woodwork for the night. Many of the city's prominent promoters were in attendance, while Harvey fans travelled from Cardiff and Brighton and Bristol and likely further afield. One person told me it was their first visit to the club in 22 years. All of this created an atmosphere that was sparky and communal, like a reunion.
The night's first revelation was that Harvey had decided not to use Ministry's new Dolby Atmos soundsystem. The chances of Harvey sourcing track stems to send sounds pinging around the 60-speaker, 22-channel system always seemed remote, and no one in the crowd seemed fussed that it didn't happen. In fact, when I first walked into The Box just before midnight it sounded great. It was nice to see a show like this held at a proper club with proper sound and not in a festival tent or warehouse space. At this stage, Harvey was in slow and sleazy mode, stitching together tunes with big, pounding kick drums.
The lineup in the other three rooms had been hand-picked by Harvey. Some bookings were a nod to the old days—Terry Farley in the bar, Mixmaster Morris and The Orb's Alex Paterson in The Loft—and these selections were paired with adventurous choices. In 103 I caught Maurice Fulton, whose set was a masterclass in disco DJing, and Awesome Tapes From Africa, who was probably the first person to play songs like Aby Ngana Diop's "Dieuleul-Dieuleul" at Ministry Of Sound. In the Baby Box, Will Bankhead and Felix Hall (the son of The Specials' Terry Hall) played dub reggae. Though it was never overly busy here, Bankhead closing out the room at 4 AM with Derrick Morgan's "Leave Earth" was a nice touch.
Back in The Box, anyone hoping that Harvey would play Ned Doheny records or oddball disco will have been left wanting—he was in chugger mode. (That's not to say he doesn't play Balearic records anymore, as last year's sets at Pikes in Ibiza proved.) And really, it's unfair to expect a set of classics—"I'm not a retro model of DJ Harvey," said the man himself before his 2012 London comeback gig.
Harvey played past the planned closing time of 6 AM. Things loosened up as the crowd began to thin and there was more room to dance. Throughout the night there were genuine air-punching moments—Brassica's "Ballo Dei Morti" sounded absolutely immense, as did Severino and Nico De Ceglia's remix of Róisín Murphy and, later on, some vintage Nu Groove. At other times, it felt like Harvey was toying with the crowd, keeping the handbrake on when he could have gone full throttle. But sometimes it’s best to leave people wanting more.
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