Stereolab take the stage to a ripple of applause, a muted welcome that belies the band's perennial success. It makes me reflect on how many years Stereolab have been creating music and how they are still playing to medium-sized audiences, why they aren't filling a stadium by now. It also makes me wonder why so many people apparently come out to see a band play a gig and spend half the night having loud conversations, as an almost-constant murmur threatens to drown out the quieter passages of music. Despite my pensive mood the audience's reception to Stereolab's songs is completely positive, particularly when some of the older tracks are played.
Being experienced with creating and playing music, and certainly happier to be musicians than stars, Stereolab know how to put together an engaging set. There are plenty of older tracks played amongst a sprinkling of newer songs from their recently released album Chemical Chords and it all sounds fresh and exciting. There is a huge reaction to classics like Lo Boob Oscillator and French Disko, the latter an electrifying performance, and Silver Sands stands out for me from the selection of new songs. It doesn't seem long before Stereolab are leaving the stage and Laetitia Sadier is saying that they are just getting warmed up. She walks off with the promise that they'll see us again in a minute.
A minute later and Stereolab are back in the most obviously announced and best fake encore I've witnessed. Laetitia tells us we are lucky as we get another fifteen minutes of their time, before the band lead in to The Emergency Kisses, one of my favourite Stereolab songs. It would be the highlight of the show for me except they didn't play the refrain, so my highlight is from the earlier playing of the wonderful Double Rocker. But just as the band are getting in to the swing of the performance again they have to leave. And this time they have to leave, for the venue has a strict ten o'clock curfew.
At having to leave the stage so early in the evening, unusual for just about any other venue, Laetitia asks everyone 'What happened to rock 'n' roll?' It's a good question, particularly when the last time I saw Stereolab the band returned for three encores, the last completely unplanned and unexpected by the venue. With another vibrant performance of exciting classics and fresh new songs it is clear the spirit of rock 'n' roll has just left the stage.