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Live in Technicolour

John Foxx returns to the 2007 Leeds Film Festival for an audiovisual performance of his Tiny Colour Movies album.

At 5.30pm my wife and I were thundering up the motorway in our automobile. I was starting to panic, wondering how on Earth we would get to Leeds Town Hall in time for the show’s 6pm start. However all worries were (almost) diminished, when like a miracle, we arrived in the city centre at 5:45pm, parking in almost the same spot where we had one year ago when we went to see John’s Cathedral Oceans III performance.

So a mad dash from the car, sidewalking and running in traffic, rushing through the rush hour, only to realise we’d gone the wrong way and had to turn back and do it all again in reverse. Eventually we found our way on to the Headrow, where we could see the elegant and ornate clock tower of the Town Hall. We crashed through the doors just a minute or so into “Stray Sinatra Neurone”, so we had missed John’s introduction, but luckily got there just in time for the music.

The classic elegance of the Town Hall provided the perfect setting for the show. John Foxx stood proudly to one side of the stage in the large, airy hall of ornate stonework. You could even feel and hear the wind blowing straight through the building as we stared on at the tiny colour movies in action. Cats, highways, buildings, empty rooms, faces, keys, film stars, faces, shoes, shadows and sunsets were just a few of the images that made up the various short films.

Foxx remained silent throughout the performance, with each song being introduced by on-screen text. The running order of the songs was slightly different to the album with some pieces being shorter too. Musically it sounded fantastic, although some of the sharper, shrill notes screamed down your ear, which was quite distracting. Foxx improvised in time to the mix of Tiny Colour Movies, occasionally glancing up to watch the moving pictures.

New fragments of music – or loops and arpeggiated chord structures to be precise – accompanied the introductions to each track, some of which were delightfully hypnotic. The main difference in the music was the renaming of “Interlude” as “Waving”, accompanied by a short film of people, well, waving.

What became apparent to me during the Q&A session after the performance, was the reality of the foundations of this project. Until now, I had concluded that the majority of the work, particularly the stories behind each film-maker, had been a wild figment of John’s imagination. But now I would say I knew otherwise, with John acknowledging many sources including the Weizcs-Bryant film collection and the Mike Barker Archive among other names.
Whether I believed it or not, apparent fact had suddenly become infinitely more fascinating than fiction, and John Foxx was a self-confessed copyright thief. Repurposing old movies and screening them to the public, unbeknown to the original film-makers. In fact, the copyright surrounding the tiny colour movies is the reason why there hasn’t been a DVD release of the films. Foxx and Barker slaved away for months on end putting the pieces together and producing the music, only to be restricted to sneaking them out at events like this.

It is only after seeing this complete performance, that I could only begin to fully understand and appreciate Tiny Colour Movies. Without seeing the films, you’re only getting half of the experience. I don’t doubt that I will yearn to see them again with every future play of the album.

Foxx clearly has a passion for this new mash-up medium, and with another 40 or 50 film fragments in the pipeline, there could very easily be a Tiny Colour Movies II somewhere on the horizon.

Alex Storer