Fatboy’s grin

By the

September 6, 2001

Part-time radio god, full-time party animal, Fatboy Slim touched down at the 9:30 Club Thursday, Aug. 30, to kick out the proverbial jams. The man saw fit to include our fair city as one of only a handful of American tour dates, and D.C. turned out in force to show its appreciation for Mr. Norman Cook. The notoriously vodka-soaked 40-something worked the crowd at the 9:30 Club like a choice 12” single; we cheered and bounced as he saw fit, which turned out to be pretty often.

After his fellow DJ and partner in crime Thunderball warmed the crowd with classic electro and big-beat records, Slim appeared behind the turntables and the real cheering began. The equipment had been set up on a small platform in the middle of the room, and the club’s sound system had been split up and spread among the four corners. This worked really well; DJs don’t need an entire stage, so why not strip the space down to its barest elements? The crowd was allowed to reclaim the stage, and Fatboy et al were stranded in the middle.

Thus stranded, he went to work. The true sample-spotters in the house giggled as he opened his set with a vaguely educational record from an era when those things were actually made. The record discusses in a coldly academic funk the nature of “the African man’s” communication through rhythm. The discussion’s opening line, “It began in Africa,” is also the central element of the Chemical Brothers’ new single “Africa.” So that was cause for admittedly minor excitement.

After a few moments of this politically incorrect schooling, the real tunes kicked up as Mr. Cook proceeded to play goofy, bouncy party tracks, one after the other. Twenty-five years behind the decks have allowed Fatboy Slim to collect so many damn records he doesn’t even need to play his own material, while still remaining accessible to underground and mainstream audiences alike. Remixes of “Billy Jean,” Blondie bass lines and “Bills, Bills, Bills” kept flying out of the speakers, and pretty much everyone had to smile. Over the course of the entire evening, Fatboy only played one of his own tunes; “Star 69,” a pretty abrasive single from his most recent album, Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars.

Cheap gimmicks abounded as well; Slim clearly understands the value of showmanship in entertainment. After scrawling short messages on record sleeves with a permanent marker, he would wave these in front of the camera pointed right at his head so the audience could see what he had written on the large screen above the stage. Of course, this is a killer way to get the crowd going, even if the messages were illegible or inane. Combined with much over-the-hill booty shaking and generally gracious behavior towards the crowd, Fatboy Slim further endeared himself to an already loving audience.

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