Group Therapy comes home: Above & Beyond in London

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It's been nearly a year since Above & Beyond released Group Therapy, and it’s an album that seems even better with hindsight. While a contingent resisted its partial shift away from club trance, the strength and core emotion of the vocal work with Richard Bedford and Zoe Johnston has become apparent after a steady stream of extremely effective club remixes.

Since last June the powerhouse trio have taken their Group Therapy tour all over the world (including a stint in Australia, of course) as well as hosting stages at multiple European festivals. Surprisingly though, the Easter weekend represented the first time they'd taken it to their home crowd of London. The Brixton Academy is situated in what’s known as a fairly rough end of ol’ London town, but it’s also become somewhat of a spiritual centre for Jono, Tony, Paavo and their Anjunabeats cohorts, after hosting multiple gigs over the years. So in a sense it was like coming home.

Walking in, the first impression of the Brixton Academy somewhat matches the reputation of the neighborhood it’s situated in. For comparison’s sake, it’s much like a larger equivalent of Sydney fixture The Enmore, though the charm of its early 20th-century architecture is countered by the decades of punter sweat that seems to hover in the air, lacquer the walls and stick to the carpet.

The antiquated sound system sends a menacing rumble through the room that falls short of the crisp high-ends ideal for main room trance, though it’s hard not to warm to its charms after a couple of hours, as it’s perfect for generating the kind of hands-in-the-air, “avin' it” kind of atmosphere that quickly develops.

The evening’s warm-up DJs seem intent though on smashing the energy through the ceiling from the moment the doors open. Anjuna prodigy Mat Zo is one of dance music’s most cutting-edge new producers, regardless of genre, and before his set on Sunday night he'd announced on Facebook he was preparing edits of a few trance classics that had defined his early clubbing years. Henceforth, the sounds were probably a little too banging from the get-go.