No one can claim to have stretched the scene of Big Beat further than Norman "Fatboy Slim" Cook. A little too far, some might even say. It's no competition these days; Big Beat just doesn't carry the cred that it did five years ago. Most people want their electronica in a niche these days, whether itâ€™s 'Trance', 'Hard House' or even 'Drum 'N Bass'. The type of chart beats at which Cook is such a dab-hand just don't seem to appeal as much as they used to.
To his credit though, the man has an ear for a hook the likes of which most would have to spend a night at the crossroads for. This is a constant in the world of Fatboy Slim, even stretching back to his days in Beats International and the formidable Freakpower. Big Beach Boutique II is certainly testament to this. Although, for some it may be a horrifying example of the rather swift commercialisation of electronic music, for most it will simply be huge fun. There are acts far more worthy of such a mammoth turn out, but when it boils down to it, you just can't argue with vibes.
The scene is awe-inspiring for Cook's second appearance on the shores of 'sunny' Brighton. A sea of patrons stretch back as far as the eye can see and fill every nook and cranny of Brighton Beach, from the wall to the shoreline, and in some cases even further. The word is that the crowd literally drank the town dry during this particular outing. But it wasn't just hooligans lapping up the sandy beats, Brighton's inhabitants were out in force for Big Beach Boutique II. All kinds, from the elderly right through to the whippersnappers, skipped on down to the shoreline for a bit of the old "What's all this about"?
For this particular performance Cook is firmly in the role of party DJ, spinning a wide array of tunes of which only two are his own. The gig kicks off the good vibes with Tim Deluxe's stupidly catchy It Just Won't Do and barely lets up through to the closing moments of All Saints' Pure Shores. It's all big, big fun, but what's especially unique about this feature is the amount of crowd coverage. Constantly jumping back and forth between DJ and audience, the message from Mr. Slim is clear; this is your concert, not mine... Party your arses off!
Track listing is as follows:
It Just Won't Do - Tim Deluxe featuring Sam Obernih
77 Strings - Chamonix
Lazy - X-Press 2
Sexiest Man in Jamaica - Mint Royale
At Night - Shakedown
Delicious - Conga Squad
Get Me Off - Basement Jaxx
Love Story - Layo & Bushwacka
Hi Jackers - Glen Masters
Long Time - Static Revenger
Lord of the Land - Cylone
Born Slippy/Right Here, Right Now - Underworld/Fatboy Slim
Let Me Show You - Camisra
Farfisa - Fusion Orchestra
He Dolar - Santos
Star 69 - Fatboy Slim
Hypnotista (ambient dub)/I Would Die For You - Mr Hermano/Space Cowboy
It Just Won't Do (dub mix) - Tim Deluxe featuring Sam Obernih
Pure Shores - All Saints
Entirely shot on digital video, Big Beach Boutique II looks damned tasty, to say the least. Not a glitch in sight for this presentation, save a tiny bit of noise and some appearance of grain as evening begins to set in. Throw in some funky effects and plenty of crowd coverage and it's almost like you're there - just turn up the heat for full effect.
You're definitely going to want a DTS set-up to get the most out of Big Beach Boutique II, or failing that, at least a Dolby Digital 5.1 capable system. The only inconsistencies in the audio transfer here are based in the source and really aren't anything out of the ordinary for a live performance. Get a bunch of people together, crank your system up as far as it will go and marvel at the massive. It's an aggressive transfer to say the least and will give every single one of your speakers a hefty workout, including the much-needed subwoofer.
As if fans wouldn't be pleased with just the concert, Big Beach Boutique II comes complete with a healthy dose of extras.
Audio Commentary - This commentary with Norman Cook and his entourage takes a little while to get going and is quite gappy for the most part, but there are some laughs to be had if you listen long enough. The key is in the rather relaxed approach.
Interviews - A ten-minute interview reel with Norman Cook positioned behind his DJ gear. Amusing and informative, even if he sells his performance abilities way too short. Uh, dude... you started off in The Housemartins and look how much you've done since!
Hidden Featurette - Find the page with the helicopter and enter the code 303 (the name of the machine avidly used by Cook and other such electronic artists) and you will be treated to a 23-minute featurette entitled The Official DJ World Cup. This basically documents his tour across Asia during the 2002 World Cup. A delightful insert into the life of Fatboy Slim if you're a fan, and still lots of fun even if you aren't.
Interactive Games - Two interactive games supporting the carnival theme entitled Dolphin Derby and Weapon of Choice. Winning either of these unlocks some extra footage. Winning Dolphin Derby will bring up a short four-minute reel covering the entire show from the set-up, right through to the aftermath. Winning the game Weapon of Choice is far more difficult with a DVD remote. However, victory will present a first-person ride on the rollercoaster and a five-minute slide show.
DJ Request - A rather useless feature that sounds more promising than it really is. The idea is to put yourself in the role of DJ and mix up to 12 tracks in the fashion that you feel sounds best. Which, of course, is the way they were presented in the first place.
Alternate Angles - During tracks 10 and 15, the user can switch between the angles that were displayed behind the DJ booth for the entire performance.
While many will tell you that Fatboy Slim's music has grown increasingly tiresome over the years, no one can deny that he still knows how to put on a huge and enjoyable show. Fans should rest assured that Big Beach Boutique II is a truly fine DVD release, worthy of high rotation and maximum volume.