The Northern Irish duo jubilantly return to form in their first live gig since lockdown
Alex Rigotti
11:18 15th September 2021

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Since the release of their eponymous debut album, Bicep have established themselves as some of electronic music’s most exciting producers. Otherwise known as Matthew McBriar and Andy Ferguson, the Belfastians began their tour for their latest album, Isles, at the O2 Brixton Academy last week (9 September), proving that they can think outside of the box by providing some creative stage design along with a cracking set-list that has managed to survive the confined environment of lockdown. 

The lighting was one of the most impressive parts about the show; the boys stood vis-à-vis behind their gear, letting the stage doing the talking instead. It’s clear they have a keen eye for design; eschewing stereotypical EDM strobe patterns, Bicep instead displayed a large backdrop behind them, with strips of lighting hung in front like a deconstructed frame.

Opener ‘Rever’ saw the Bicep logo move around the screen like a glorified Microsoft screensaver, whilst ‘Opal’ saw otherworldly holographic gradients fill the auditorium with some incredible light. A particularly gorgeous example of strobe lighting was used during ‘Glue’, in which rainbow sine waves were projected to the back of the venue. In the air, it was like a super saturated Northern Lights; watching the pattern gradually shift colour during the wall was equally as hypnotic. 

Although there were minimal edits to the song, the energy that Bicep managed to sustain during the night was impressive. For an album that had only been tested once in Corsica Studios beforehand, the sound design was especially admirable. I personally underestimated the power of Isles’ most successful single, ‘Apricots’, in a live setting. Sampling traditional Malawi singers, this was a track I’ve had on my post-Covid rave playlist since it was released, and it did not disappoint in person. That sample demands that everyone holler along, no matter if you understand the words or not. Singing along to that central motif was utterly euphoric for those who have been patiently waiting to hear Isles live in their bedrooms for an entire year. 

Ultimately, their strong fanbase is what made the night for me. It’s clear these guys aren’t just DJs that people tag along to for shits and gigs; most of the people there were genuinely invested in Bicep’s discography, which made moving within that giant mass a surreal experience. It didn’t matter whether you were up front or at the back – everyone in the standing area was happily moving as a singular organism. Bicep’s music might not be too frenetic or aggressive, but their strong engagement with the crowd is what truly elevated this gig into something special. 

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Photo: Rob Waters