The audience for Giorgio Moroder’s first live tour presents an intriguing study in contrasts. Those clearly drawn by Moroder’s reputation as an infallible 80s hit-making machine – the man Hollywood called when it needed a smash single for its latest blockbuster – rub shoulders with earnest gentlemen in Kraftwerk T-shirts, drawn for the same reason that Daft Punk asked Moroder to appear on their 2013 album Random Access Memories, thus reactivating his career: the 78-year-old is the pioneer behind arguably the most influential piece of electronic music ever recorded, Donna Summer’s 1977 single I Feel Love.
Moroder manages to baffle both parties by opening with Looky Looky, a 1969 French No 1 from an era when he was a purveyor of an unlovely Mitteleuropean variant on US bubblegum pop. The rest of the show seems inspired by another Random Access Memories alumnus, Nile Rodgers, who has been wowing festivals for a decade with party-starting, hit-packed Chic performances. But watching Moroder and band – complete with string quartet – you’re struck by the sense that Chic’s back catalogue works live because it’s less disparate than this. All their hits are linked by Rodgers’ distinctive guitar, but almost nothing sonically binds the thrilling electronic pulse of 1977’s From Here to Eternity and the featherweight 80s movie theme The Never Ending Story, the latter not much helped by a live arrangement that leans towards the cruise ship.
The highlights come when Moroder’s disco-era hits punch through the cabaret styling on I Feel Love and a version of MacArthur Park using a taped vocal by the late Donna Summer. Occasionally, Moroder explains their recording: “Donna said she wanted to make a sexy record,” he offers. “Then she did a moaning, and then another moaning”. Alas, the ensuing version of Love to Love You Baby that follows is truncated, even bowdlerised. None of the four vocalists are required to do a moaning.
Its less appealing moments feel anonymous: it could be any covers band doing Take My Breath Away or Together in Electric Dreams, the presence of Moroder banging a tambourine or encouraging audience participation notwithstanding. Those here for the hits love it, but it’s a show that speaks louder about Moroder’s populist touch than his groundbreaking genius.