21st May. 2013
Reviewer – Rowan Blair Colver.
This review can be found in its original publication of Now Then Magazine Issue 63
Anticipating the performance of material from Bonobo’s new album The North Borders, I entered the live room at Plug to the tune of angelically vocalised bassy rhythms from a shadowy DJ at the sound desk. Taking a comfy seat at the back, I watched as the sold out room filled. The Bonobo crowd were a mixed bunch. I saw several dress styles including, to my pleasant surprise, a goth or two.
Their choice of support act, a soulful group of synth, string and vocal talent called 14th, was brilliant. To open, a colourfully dressed woman casually walked on with her band and treated us to around 40 minutes of delightful rhythmic seductive sounds. There was obviously a lot of respect between them and it showed in their performance.
After another volley of heavy and driving DJ work from the desk, Simon Green, aka Bonobo, strutted on stage just after 9pm. Calm, casual and collected, he revved up his beats machine and began to construct his opener. What began as a simple groove was slowly built up into a progressive intro for new track ‘Cirrus’. Using a midi keyboard to hammer down the bells in time to his funky programming, the crowd went crazy for it.
After a short stint alone, his live band appeared. Keyboard players, a drummer, a brass section, some woodwind and of course, who could forget Szjerdene, his extremely talented singer collaborator for this album. It is very refreshing to see quality acts using the real thing rather than referring to libraries of samples. Very refreshing and well worth it. The natural sound, although harder to control from the desk, provided a layer of beauty that a computer just couldn’t replicate.
As a master of rhythm, you’d expect the show to have an excellent flow. The live band did it admirably. From the first track – bouncy, fun and intense – the set gradually wound down, with Szjerdene treating us to her smooth, pitch-perfect vocals alongside some slow, heavy beats. By drawing on tracks from the new record and plenty of classics in between, the music was adorable and the blend of soul, funk and downright heavy bass was just right. The flow carried us down and back up again several times throughout the performance and, with the assistance of amazing lighting effects, solo performances from preeminent musicians and great crowd interaction, this was a night absolutely full of quality.
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