An unexpected but welcome comeback from minimal funk pioneers Liquid Liquid, nearly 30 years after they first haunted the stages of New York City. While they never achieved anything approaching commercial success during their brief career, which spanned just three years between 1980 and 1983, the group are today credited as a cornerstone in the development of post-rock, and have achieved almost mythical status among musical connoisseurs.

Perhaps best known among the wider public for their signature track 'Cavern' – which would go on to form the basis of the Grandmaster Flash track 'White Lines (Don't Do It)' – the group offer a stripped back, minimal take on fink grooves. When juxtaposed to the disco movement which swept New York in the 1980's the taught, concise rhythms and angular bass lines offered by Liquid Liquid become even more stark, menacing and important to the musical cannon.

Composed of the quartet Scott Hartley, Salvatore Principato, Dennis Young (all of whom play percussion this evening, including drums, marimba, bongo, Roto Toms and conga) and Richard McGuire on bass – the group take the stage just after nine and play for slightly more than an hour. It, however, immediately becomes apparent something is amiss.

While the Barbican is a delightful venue in the right context, tonight it crucially inhibits any crowd participation, forcing any momentum created by the band to evaporate into the cavernous spaces which surround the stage. A seated audience, unable to dance, instead bops awkwardly, only willing to breaks their prohibitive inhibitions toward the end of the group's set; standing to dance to the delight of all present.

Undeterred Liquid Liquid launch into a frenetic set, barely acknowledging the crowd until the end of the performance. With only three EPs to their name – including 'Successive Reflexes' and 'Optimo' – material is limited, but the group has lost none of its impact during the intervening years. 'Eyes Sharp', 'Optimo' and 'Scraper' all come and go, before a surprisingly low-key version of 'Cavern'. While the wider world might know the band as the forefathers of 'White Lines', it is obvious the band rate the track as the equal to anything in their oeuvre.

While there is a tendency for the material to blur from one track to the next, especially with the group unwilling to talk to the audience between pieces, Liquid Liquid are able to present their fluid basslines and African tinted circular rhythms with aplomb. The pace rarely slows, with a brief encore encouraged by a captivated audience. When the definitive history of music comes to be written there will be a page of Liquid Liquid, but why tonight's festivities could not have been hosted in a more appropriate setting is the main talking point as the crowd departs.

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