For the new generation of electronic music fans, Leftfield is no more than a faded spot on the immense digital carpet dance music has become. But we, veterans from the pill-popping 90s, still feel the weight of the British duo's first album on our musical conscience. Released seventeen years ago, “Leftism” gave us an exciting mix of progressive tech-house, dub, euphoric acid and reggae that brought ravers, hip-hoppers, Rastas, crusties, techno heads and all other kinds of hedonists together on one dance floor. It was a party sound, but open to many flavours and meant to wreak havoc without prejudice.
“Leftism” was an important album in its time, it opened the door for many producers that came afterwards, and shared the stage with other crossover heroes like The Chemical Brothers and Underworld. It was an innocent time, a time of discoveries and well-executed crossbreeding; Paul Daley and Neil Barnes proved to be especially gifted in that sense. Their second and last album, “Rhythm And Stealth”, insisted on the idea that electronic music is for everyone, achieving some important spots on the pop charts. Though less impressive than their historical debut, the album featured the same stir-fried ingredients, though with less dance fever and more hip-hop and electro.
But the most beautiful stories almost never last, and in 2002, the two split up. Many saw this as the end, but the Leftfield brand was still very strong, and apparently Neil Barnes wasn't too keen on stopping to live off such a juicy yield. I'm not criticising - God forbid - I would do the same. Furthermore, I would also dare to release a live album like this one, without thinking twice. In this dog eat dog world, one has to survive any which way one can. After a couple of years of respectful mourning, Barnes has every right to pull Leftfield out of its coffin and perform megalomaniac gigs all over the planet.
“Tourism” is the recording of a concert the group, for lack of a better word, did at the Music Future Festival in Melbourne before thousands of devotees. Contrary to what many might assume, the show leaves no bitter aftertaste in the mouth of the nostalgic fan. Leftfield's sound is more suited to large venues than for tiny, specialised clubs, and this set is very well-executed. Of course, most of the repertoire comes from “Leftism”. “Space Shanty”, “Song Of Life”, “Black Flute”, “Original” and other classics, interspersed with smoked-out trip-hop passages, echoes of Jamaica, raver moments and ultra-refined mass house. There's also a little room for “Rhythm And Stealth”: it makes an appearance, albeit infrequently. “Afrika Shox”, and the ten final minutes of “Phat Planet” pay homage to the undervalued album, on which time doesn't seem to have had any effect. Oh, and that “War Of The Worlds”-like intro: incredible. It could have been a lot worse, and that's the truth.