Photographs from The Scala, London - 21/11/12

One of the largest and most marked changes in live music since the advent of using recordings on stage is the role of the artist on stage. The overbearing need for prerecorded samples for a lot of artists pushes a new question as to what the artist themselves is actually doing on stage, yet in an age where an artist can sell out their first gig on the back of an MP3 floating around in the ether the concept of not playing and not touring is getting rarer.

In my experience bands that rely on samples and recordings fit somewhere between three areas - those with indomitable personalities, those that rely on theatre and those that fully utilise neither and, in most cases, are disappointing live. Of course, as with any analogy in the plexus of opinions that is music journalism, that's vastly reductionist and does not cover all bands, but it is certainly a useable scaffold.


The idea of theatrics in music is an interesting concept, and, as Purity Ring tonight have demonstrated, theatrical stage settings do not always equate to theatrical performances, and instead can serve to bolster a lack of stage presence.

That's not to say that Corin and Megan of Purity Ring are absent of emotion on stage; far from it in fact. Megan, undeniably intoxicated to some capacity, does her best to hide what seems like an underlying shyness in the face of the audience with her singing at the front of the stage, but barely makes eye contact with the crowd. Likewise, Corin seems to be full of passion and movement at his helm, but has nothing to do with the crowd. Only stopping three songs before the end of their set to give us their spiel of how they're delighted to play Brighton, the rest of the set sees the duo injecting their passion to an audience they perceive as a video camera.


The crux of their performance is, that while they're an enjoyable live band, the performance itself is over-rehearsed and what we see instead is an act. Complete with their impressive light show and interactive triggered lights, we watch the two of them on stage take the theatrical side of live performance to another level; we're watching an interpretive musical, where the crowd is the fourth wall in their performance.


Such is the trap laid by the temptation of a theatrical performance. From a traditionalist's point of view, what was actually played on stage was Corin's sample pad, their lights linked up to triggers, an oversized bass tom that lit up and Megan's voice. It certainly wouldn't have been an engaging set to watch just the two of them on stage, Corin behind his desk and Megan behind her microphone, but in place of the traditional approach they've invited drama to take centre stage.

Their overhanging features, the light up bass drum which Megan used every other song and their creative use of light on stage made for a set on stage that overshadowed any charisma and musical performance Purity Ring had to offer and instead invited them to take centre stage for their own play. They're certainly worth watching, if only to watch them indulge in performing Purity Ring, The Musical.