Corn Exchange, Edinburgh

If the MTV Awards brought large scale celebrity window shopping to Edinburgh, then this after show event is a successful, but belated attempt to reposition music at the centre of things.

Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo have built their reputation on the production work as The Neptunes, making N.E.R.D. a slightly overlooked proposition. However, the spirit of collaboration means that their invention and originality is married, even in live performance, to an extensive supporting cast.

Most notable are their backing musicians, Spymob. Their own support set fails to register, but when they leave centre stage, they are able to produce the kind of grooves that are worthy of Funkadelic, The Revolution or Cameo at their peak.

For the celebrity spotters, Justin Timberlake is on hand for a lengthy, credibility boosting guest appearance, that combines renditions of some his Neptunes� enhanced solo hits with a general cheerleading role on the N.E.R.D. material.

�Senorita� and �Like I Love You� highlight the real genius of Williams and Hugo � simplicity. The riffs make even an above average but unremarkable boy band product appear relevant, musical (he plays piano and rudimentary guitar at various points) and above all, cool. By returning their many favours, it is clear Timberlake knows the value of their patronage.

Elsewhere, there are previews from the new N.E.R.D. album, and Williams� own �Frontin�� � but there is plenty of evidence that they save their best material for the N.E.R.D. brand. �Provider� is the kind of tune Prince stopped writing around 1987. �Rock Star� and �Lapdance� make for a rousing finale.

By this time, Sean Paul has made his obligatory cameo slot and assorted members of the Black Eyed Peas fill up the stage to no noticeable effect.

Amid the pop star jam, Williams and Hugo are the real stars, offering a conclusion that the corporate vacuum of the main event hardly deserved.

originally appeared in The Herald