Air – Live Review – Halifax Piece Hall

Air – Live Review – Halifax Piece Hall (3)

By David Schuster, June 2024

You’d have to look a long way to find a band as cool as electronic space-pop veterans, Air. Their trademark white stage instruments, the musicians also dressed in white and their understated stage entrance, all ooze the very definition of chic. And, they’re French, of course.

So, for tonight at least, the beautiful corner of Yorkshire which is Halifax Piece Hall, has a very continental vibe. Men in linen suits and women in cotton dresses sway languidly to the pre-concert DJ set. Others, myself included, sit and people watch, whilst sipping a cooling beverage. The atmosphere is undoubtedly helped by the weather. After what has felt like six months of winter, the latter part of June has been hot and sunny, and it’s comfortably mid-twenties in the galleried stone square of the venue. However, being England, it’s not to be depended upon, dark, thunderous clouds hang over the surrounding Pennine hills. I cross my fingers and hope that the gothic steeple of the adjacent church, pointing upwards at a blue patch of sky, is a sign.

We get a cheery wave as the band take their positions, and, without further ado, we’re off on a fantastic musical journey back to 1998. That’s the year the duo of Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel launched their seminal debut Moon Safari, thereby setting the standard for Euro-chill pop. Tonight, and for this tour which began on the 25th anniversary of its release, they are playing that entire album, in full.

Air – Live Review – Halifax Piece Hall (2)

“Multitude of effects”

The opening bars of ‘La femme d’argent’ immediately whisk us away on slow waves of sound, Godin’s guitar and Dunckel’s Hammond organ producing a sound that was nostalgically vintage even by the late 90’s, but which by contrast would slip unnoticed into any current lo-fi playlist. Rapturous applause greets the tongue in cheek ‘Sexy Boy’. Oddly, whilst this reached number 13 in the UK charts, 22 in the US and even 27 in Iceland, it was less well received in their home country, where its peak position was 65. By the distinctive wah-wah tones of ‘All I Need’, it’s clear that they are also presenting the tracks in the same order as the original recording. That’s a wise decision; if you’ve something that has been beloved by so many for so long, why mess with it?

As you’d expect, the stage show is both clever and impressive. At first it appears as a simple white letterbox format frame around the whole band, lighted at the back, throwing the performers into silhouette. It soon becomes apparent that the whole thing is a huge hi-resolution backdrop, which allows for a multitude of effects; fireworks, star fields, planets, sunrise and, humorously, even ‘Pong’, the 70’s table-tennis based arcade game. I’ve commented before on the quality of the Piece Hall’s PA system, and that’s especially apparent tonight. Electronica, with it’s wide range of frequencies from almost sub-sonic bass beats to high range tweets and bleeps, is notoriously hard to difficult to cater for. However, it’s crisp and clear, without any hint of distortion.

Air – Live Review – Halifax Piece Hall (1)


At just less than 45 minutes, Moon Safari was never a long record. So, at the end of the tenth song, the upbeat, honky-tonk ‘Le voyage de Penelope’, I’m interested to see what will happen next. Clearly not ones for long speeches, the musicians say “Thank you.” and “Merci.” then depart the stage.

Fortunately, contrary to the muttered prediction of a bloke in front of me; “I guess we all go home now, then.”, after a short pause the group return for a second ‘Best of’ set of six tracks. There’s a wide set of choices spanning ambient dance, pop and the appropriately named heavier sounds of ‘Don’t Be Light’. They close with two well deserved encores. ‘Alone in Kyoto’, from the soundtrack to Sofia Coppola’s excellent film Lost in Translation, and an epic rendition of ‘Electronic Performers’.

Air are indeed virtuoso electronic performers, and they do it with style.

images: Cuffe & Taylor


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