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Review: Faithless at Glastonbury, an emotional step into a new era

The loss of Maxi Jazz hangs heavy but he stays integrated into a new look Faithless, in a way that pays respect but lets the humanity behind it be personal

  • 2 July 2024

There’s a sense of heaviness attached to Faithless’ Friday night set at Glastonbury. The sadness of loss, unavoidable after the passing of charismatic frontman Maxi Jazz in 2022, and the weight of a legacy, that runs deep at the UK’s unparalleled music event, which now keeps moving but must adapt.

Faithless have been regulars at the legendary festival, including two sets on its Pyramid shaped main stage in 2002 and 2010, which are both written into dance music folklore. 2002 footage still sends chills down the spine: a sunset slot to a packed out field, with some estimates placing over 100,000 people there to bear witness. While his bandmates provided the magical soundtrack, Maxi Jazz was the voice and face, unfathomably transcendent in his frontman role. More a messenger than a vocalist, he was the force taking Faithless’ music from the dancefloor to a higher realm — a spiritual conductor whose stage presence could make the staunchest atheist reconsider their reality.

It’s not a loss that’s easy to weather, but it’s one that warrants being upheld and celebrated, which the Faithless of 2024 and beyond carry with them.

Speaking ahead of their Friday evening set, this time at the Glade, a dance-focused area tucked amid woodland, Sister Bliss is visibly emotional. We talk about Maxi and what he means to her, what he means to Faithless — but the precise words don't feel relevant, and almost too intimate to quote. The weight of it all is the thrust.

His presence is built into their new live show, but she almost balks at the idea of it being a 'tribute', as if such a loss could be repackaged into something so mawkish and simplistic as an LED screen image. The humanity behind it all feels much deeper than the public facing aspect of how Faithless - the music act, a distinct separation to the humans - now must continue.

But they do. And the devoted fans are a huge influence as to why. Sister Bliss, who DJed at the same stage last year, confesses it would have been a lot easier to just do that from now on, rather than fully confront Maxi's loss and how to define a new Faithless live show era. It's a responsibility that evidently weighs heavy, but the love and support of a fanbase grown over decades helped (and demanded) they push forwards.

The set mirrors this vision. Maxi is a presence who is included but not exploited. He means so much to so many people, and it feels like Faithless share as much for the fans as their own hearts can bear. During hits like 'God Is A DJ' his voice is played while screens present a rendering of his image. Not overt but completely recognisable - a neon silhouette, with static electricity emanating from his outline, backgrounding Sister Bliss who now occupies the centre stage with a big synth set up.

The new live band around her are tight and potent as a force. Sometimes it feels like the tracks extend into prog rock jam sessions with wilding guitars leading the way, but then the big housey beats and transcendent synths roll back in and make it distinctly Faithless.

Along with their own hits, many other old-school anthems are worked in. There's the ecstatic bliss of Future Sound of London, the euphoric pump of 'Music Is the Answer' by Celeda and Danny Tenaglia, and even a chaotic drum 'n' bass refix of Dido's 'Thank You' to close.

"Thank you for coming to see us. I know there's lots else on," says Sister Bliss, humbly, on a mic to the crowd. "We're all one family here." She is stoic but motivated, reckoning with personal (and public) emotions and keeping going.

Golden hour hits as the set climaxes, with the sun setting, and the joyous crowd response and performance all just feeling perfect. It's a touching set with a weight of legacy behind it, but also straight up thrilling in a way that asserts Faithless are not a spent force, just a changed one.

Patrick Hinton is Mixmag's Editor & Digital Director, follow him on Twitter

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