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LIVE: EMF – Hangar 34, Liverpool, 09/02/2024

If someone would have said to me back in the day, when EMF were conquering both the USA and UK with one of the most  recognisable songs of the 90’s, that it would be over 30 years later that I would see them play a headline show then I would have thought you were to be very wrong as I’ve seen every other great band of that era numerous times in the meantime.

For those unfamiliar with their oeuvre, their debut album Schubert Dip hit number three in 1991. It was followed up by arguably a better, far rockier record Stigma, and after the less-said-about-it-the-better 1995’s Cha Cha Cha (tellingly tonight we get nothing played from this) failed to capture the public’s imagination they disappeared, only returning with 2022’s Go Go Sapiens.

So here we are, on the back of their recently released fifth album The Beauty And The Chaos, and they’re out touring again on a February Friday night in one of our favourite Liverpool venues (they sell Guinness on draught, and you can park right outside, what is there not to love?)

Once inside we see the merchandise stall doing a roaring trade, a reminder of the t-shirt band era that EMF stemmed from (Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Pop Will Eat Itself et al).

And at 9:10, the sound of roaring sirens welcome them onstage one by one where they tear straight into ‘Children’ and ‘Long Summer Days’ and it instantly feels like the early 90’s all over again.

Unfairly somewhat dismissed as something of a lightweight act back then, this is simply not the case as singles such as ‘Lies’, ‘They’re Here’ and ‘Getting Through’ display their lyrical subtleties, “I left my trust on the tail on youth, we were so unsure of the things we’d seen” showed a mature heft.

The whole band (especially perma-smiling frontman James Atkin) look like they’re enjoying themselves immensely, which is not always the case these days, as they tell us that it is indeed 33 years since they last played Liverpool, just before having to restart ‘Read The Room’ as Atkin forgets to start singing. Ah, the passing of time.

There are some very interesting sartorial choices onstage but whilst this adds to the early 90’s feel, and although the majority of the set is from their first two records, this isn’t a nostalgia trip. The material sounds made for now, none so much as Stigma’s ‘Inside’, which turns into a Prodigy-esque techno banger, pleasing the (unforeseen) large amount of youngsters in the crowd.

The newer songs fit perfectly in the canon, especially ‘21st Century’, which is being played for the very first time tonight.

There are some lovely onstage interactions between Atkin and the rest of the band especially guitarist Ian Dench and keyboard maniac Derry, which show the warmth which leads into the anti-bigot, anti-racist ‘Hello People’ which was their stab at last year’s Christmas number one.

We could have probably done without the karaoke-ish, crowd-pleasing covers of ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ and a moody ‘I’m A Believer’ though, but they make up for it in spades with the trio of closers, ‘I Believe’, the behemoth that is ‘Unbelievable’ and a scorching ‘EMF.’

You’ve caught us on a good night”, they proclaim towards the end.

That’s very believable. We did.

(Photo: Cheryl Doherty)

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.