BONOBO @ Metro City
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Simon Green is a sonic magician. The main man behind the Bonobo name has been crafting albums for over 15 years, and with the release of his sixth earlier this year, the stellar Migration, he proved he’s at the peak of his powers. Once again, his extensive album tour saw him kindly venture to our fair city. Even if it was a Tuesday night, the excitement levels were high among the solid crowd, because they knew what a Bonobo show was all about, and once again the man and his band did not disappoint.
Fellow Englishman and Ninja Tunes stablemate Romare was in support, and the noted producer kicked the night off with a live set of his heavy, percussive African-influenced beats and bass.
But it was main event the people were waiting for, with the crowd surging forward and packing out the ground floor of Metros, as smoke filled the large stage that was strewn with an assortment of instruments. As the wait dragged on, the anticipation grew, until finally Green strode out in front of the Bonobo logo to take his position on a podium at the back behind three banks of equipment – the crowd’s reaction was wild, such is the emotion the man’s music evokes.
Fittingly he triggered the looping, stuttering, Jon Hopkins-sampling keyboard intro of Migration, the album’s opening/title track. It was a beautiful, gradual start, as his band revealed themselves. A guitarist, drummer, keyboard player and three-piece horn section joined him, slowly adding layers as they warmed up the room with lush sounds.
7th Sevens lifted the levels a little further, expanding on the sound, with the horn section coming into full effect. After greeting the crowd, he introduced to the stage the enchanting Szjerdene, who drew further howls and cheers from the crowd, as she took her position behind the mic to sing the gorgeous Break Apart (sung by Rhye on the album).
Many of Bonobo’s tracks across his albums feature many different vocalists. He’s often worked with one female vocalist on some albums, and then toured with them. His last album, The North Borders, featured Szjerdene on several tracks. Migration is his most varied work yet, featuring an assortment of vocalists, but he’s kept Szjerdene on board as his touring vocalist. Her incredible, sweet, soft voice has the ability to adapt to suit most Bonobo vocal tracks, and she did a great job, even on the male sung tracks, whether it was Rhye’s falsetto, Grey Reverend’s deeper, impassioned vocal on First Fires or taking on Nick Murphy’s part on the more anthemic, driving No Reason.
Stunning and doll-like in a floral print dress, her movements were studied and elegant, and her presence lent great poise to the performance. The immersive visuals on the big screen behind the band also really added to the show, raising the bar of previous tours. Part of the reason Bonobo has amassed an ever-growing fan base, apart from his amazing music, is his brilliant live performances. It’s never an easy task to adapt heavily studio produced, sample-based music to a live band, but he works with incredible musicians, who take his songs to the next level, infusing them with more energy, evolving them into new forms.
As well as driving and mixing the music from the middle, the multi-talented Green plays live bass guitar, and he really knows how to hold it down. Most of his tracks are built around a solid bassline, and live this becomes more apparent.
After an amazing and majestic first part of the show, showcasing the more downtempo beauty of his work, he then took things up a notch into club, dance territory with the huge Bambro Koyo Ganda. It was just the lift the crowd needed, and when that big bass drop came, the dance floor burst into motion.
Following on well, was the awesome Cirrus, it’s familiar percussive intro drawing huge cheers, before the massive bassline kicked in – this was smoothly blended into Outlier, which had a more deep, electro vibe accentuated by white and green lights.
We Could Forever was performed in front of an giant, explosive, red fire backdrop and featured a killer flute solo. But the one everyone was waiting for, and highlight of the night, was the glorious, Brandy-sampling Kerala, which had everyone dancing ecstatically and singing “Yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah”. The live version beefed up the original with a big breakbeat, and featured an impressive drum solo under the spotlight, while Green himself played live pads. They drove the music to a huge peaking crescendo in time with a dazzling, blinding strobe light.
The band left the stage, but the rowdy crowd demanded more, and soon Green returned to genuinely thank his fans, whose exuberance really helped make this gig one to remember, along with a polished, spectacular performance from an incredibly tight band. The only real issue was now that he has so many songs, we missed out on hearing some great ones. They kept the party going with a two-song encore of the beautiful Pieces which saw the return of Szjerdene, before finishing with a huge, booming, bassy finale of Know You.
Words and Photos