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The Presets ‘secret gig’ it seemed was not such a big secret. Thirty minutes after the doors had opened, a long line of hardcore fans still wrapped around the outskirts of the Hi Fi’s black monolithic structure. Upon entering the venue, one animated fan whipped around with a huge grin and exclaimed, “are you excited for The Presets or what?”. His statement voiced the thoughts of the fellow fans that looked at him with amused expressions. The buzz of anticipation to see the preview of their Parklife show was paramount.
Julian and Kim entered to the low-pitched “awooo” of Kicking and Screaming, standing menacingly at their stations behind an array of electronic keyboards, samplers, and a long and intriguing-looking xylophone (utilised in If I Know You). As the opening remix of Kicking and Screaming transitioned seamlessly into a reworked version of Talk Like That, it felt like we were witnessing The Presets reborn and reworked into the Pacifica prototype. The darker and more sinister edge added to The Presets’ classics enabled the new songs off Pacifica to mesh cohesively without any drastic shift in the mood.
A sea of white light showered the stage and the audience for the introduction of Ghosts, signaling an unmistakable change of pace, but not a drastic one. The Presets innovation was then highlighted by a stripped-back acoustic intro to This Boys In Love. Julian’s vocals were accompanied by soft, classical piano for the entire first verse. The song then built intelligently into the more familiar chorus that exploded with heavy synths and smashing drum rhythms. From here on out, it was clear that The Presets were reinventing their live show with fresh ideas, melding them into their current sound in a new and exciting way.
Youth in Trouble is an absolute monster live. One of the most riveting listens on new album Pacifica, the song was trimmed to have a smaller build-up between drops. Expecting a minimal rhythm to follow the first drop, the rhythm that followed was swallowed by bass so thick and all-encompassing that it vibrated through the body right to the very core. It was layered with mid-range bass lines and those trademark minimal jolty synths. Although constantly building, the song delivered two huge climaxes that had the crowd in hysterics.
An encore delivered track Promises, followed by heavy dance track Push, which apart from Youth in Trouble, was a massive stand-out of the new live show. The underlying rhythms were thick and punchy throughout each verse and driven home in the chorus with massive drum beats. Ironically, as the song chanted “Don’t stop baby, baby, baby”, the dance floor was unable to resist jumping up and down on that infectious beat.
The Presets really go on a journey with their live show. They just as easily build the energy to monstrous climaxes as they do holding it at a frenetic pace. They can then tone it down a notch with Adults Only to bring it back to fever pitch with My People in a heartbeat. Expect a few anti-build-ups to keep you on your toes and just to keep you guessing what they’ll do next. It’s always a surprise.
The Presets are absolute masters of dance music composition. The way they have turned their minimal and brooding songs off Pacifica into huge, hard-hitting dance floor killers is incredible. Even the old tracks have been given a fresh breath of life, and they work so unbelievably well. The Presets are back, with a live show so strong and eye opening you will forget that they ever left.