There is no piece of music that cannot be improved by the sight of musicians enjoying themselves. The little smiles, the shared glances when a tricky passage is executed perfectly; how, when a musician is so delighted, can the audience not love it too?
But to inject fresh joy and excitement into some of the most iconic dance music ever written is a whole other feat. And despite all the challenges of expectation, XOYO’s 16-piece orchestra managed to perform Daft Punk’s seminal album Homework (and various other hits) with fresh excitement and movement – and add a whole new layer of fun.
Seeing a row of violins, violas and cellos in a club setting is, it must be said, a novelty. I spent a few minutes initially terrified that some errant audience member would swing their arms and drinks too enthusiastically towards a precious instrument. But the clever arrangements of familiar songs gave no room for distraction, providing constant surprises and capturing the packed room.
The creative staging split old and new in the audience’s view. At the front of the stage sat the line of strings, while a partition, invisible until animations were projected onto it, shielded a contemporary band. In true Daft Punk style, the vocoder gave a star performance. On the classic ‘Harder Better Faster Stronger’, the extraordinary, surreal effect it gives to vocals was on full display. In others, such as a crowd-pleasing encore of ‘Get Lucky’, it was the harmonies from the strings that provided the focus.
Sadly at moments the strings were drowned out by the band, which slightly defeated the point of an orchestral reimagining. Daft Punk performed by Daft-Punk-style instruments over club speakers is not all that different to Daft Punk on a recording. Even when standing so close I was nearly ducking a cellist’s bow, some sections were inaudible.
But when the band quietened down, the orchestra truly shone, and – best of all – they looked absolutely delighted to be playing and performing. High marks for a rare chance to go clubbing with a string orchestra.