Much like Portishead, Morcheeba’s sound is a blend of light funk, reggae, a little faux blues noodling and a smattering of samples. Above it all, though, is Skye Edwards’ subtle vocalizing. Eschewing the frenzy of most British dance grooves, Morcheeba is as laid-back onstage as it is on its two Sire discs.
Opening their sold-out show with “The Sea” from the group’s most recent offering, “Big Calm,” the band settled into its quasi-trance state and only elevated itself out of it for a reggae workout midway through their set. Morcheeba rises and falls more on mood than upon hook — the beats are basic and simple, the scratching from the d.j. placed a lot farther back than most of their modern counterparts.
Unlike most English exports of the ’90s, Morcheeba is disarming and refreshingly lacking in Brit arrogance. The band’s selling point is Edwards, a diminutive, likable presence, who resembles a college girl fronting a weekend party band. While her vocals are charming, they are certainly limited, a major leap from the guitarist and bassist who struggled with basic riffs throughout the night.
Morcheeba could use a serious tightening up, though, as not a single tune was less than five minutes long. Ostensibly this is a pop act more than an ambient one, and the best songs — “Shoulder Holster” and “Friction” — sport basic, repetitive choruses, the pop formula as we’ve known it since day one.
Yet another British dance act that is the flavor of the moment, Morcheeba needs a major upswing in tunesmanship to avoid the scrapheap of pop history.