In my view there's a recipe for a great live show - talent and heart. One without the other can be good, but never great. This 'recipe' becomes increasingly important in in an age where bands make most of their money not from album sales but from gigs. Seeing Moon Hooch, supported by Marco Benevento and Train Robbers at the Oxford O2 on a sweltering September evening, was a master class in why some bands are great while others are only good.
Speculating beforehand over a pint we guessed Train Robbers might be a ska band so imagine our surprise when a trio of lads from Banbury leapt out on stage to unleash some old school hip hop. After the initial shock, and after parking some prejudice, I realised that I was really enjoying their energy-filled set. What these boys had in abundance was heart - they were clearly loving every minute of it. They even had the crowd joining in - no mean feat in notoriously laid-back Oxford.
A contrast then to the next act, Marco Benevento was certainly not short on talent, but somehow I failed to be moved by his set. It wasn't lacking in energy but it just felt like a key element was missing from his polished party jazz.
It was only when Moon Hooch came on that things transcended the good and became truly great. The band are described as a "New York-based sax and drum jazz-rave trio" and they do exactly that. The band is made up of two fantastically talented sax players and an incredibly fast and furious drummer. Both saxophonists spent most of the hour and a half set circular breathing (where you puff air out of your cheeks on in breaths to create continuous notes) to the extent I was worried one or both might keel over. But the real magic of what this threesome do is to give their heart and soul to the performance... and appear to genuinely relish the crowds' ecstatic reaction. It's that precious and elusive zone where the line between performer and audience is blurred as both are feeding off each other's energy.
If you could bottle that and sprinkle it over artists every gig would be unforgettable and the music industry would be in great shape!