Aloe Blacc, Sarah Love and Maya Jupiter: The Plug, Sheffield

On a cold Friday night, I planned to defrost my bones with a slice of soul from Aloe Blacc, a man finding his wings amidst the British music scene. I had been listening to his album Good Things for the past couple of weeks and found much enjoyment in it, making me eager for his performance at The Plug. I was later surprised to hear that he had a support for the night, BBC DJ and MTV presenter Sarah Love performing with Maya Jupiter, an Australian rapper and radio personality linked with Aloe Blacc. This would turn out to be a very surprising performance for the underdog and a solid one from Aloe Blacc.

Sarah Love required no big entrance or introduction as such, she simply came on to stage and began to play, a trait I found quite pleasing. This isn’t to say she is not a talker; she communicated to the crowd with charm and charisma, although at times you struggled to hear what she was saying. The most noticeable skill she possesses is a great ability to crossfade. Each track flowed into one another beautifully with no disruption and ultimately, no stop to the shuffling crowd. Also, Australian MC, Maya Jupiter became involved half way through the set, and brought a lively persona and added texture to the deep sound already being produced. It was a rare sight for me to see a female double act on stage and I was pleasantly surprised by the good vibes I was picking up from it. The tracks selected were exquisite, a driving bass throughout the night, starting with more clubby tracks and ending on some funk and soul. Her set was dynamic and a joy to listen to.

Aloe Blacc’s performance was livelier than I was expecting. Each of his songs had considerable more punch than that of the album, probably because they would move the crowd more, which they did. I can certainly account for my surroundings, as I was a part of the dancing and swaying the majority participated in (in particular a man stood next to me who shared my erratic dance fashion). Aloe Blacc has good charisma, but at times bordered on being arrogant, although not enough to make me dislike him. He spent moments making you feel good about yourself with compliments and others making you think about how bad the world is; a very mixed interaction from him. Not all credit goes to Aloe Blacc himself; but his band The Grand Scheme deserves a piece of the glory. These men were on top form, faultless you could say, although that compliment does not exist. They played harmoniously and you could see a real chemistry between the glances and smiles to one another. In particular, their synth player Farmer showed exceptional talent and a very care-free attitude when dappling with his new toy, the vocoder, which added some light relief and comical value. There were many scenes that made this gig a little bit different from others I had seen recently, such as Aloe Blacc beckoning a girl to sing the last chorus of “I Need a Dollar” on stage with him and a ‘dance pit’ being formed in the middle of the crowd, where everyone expressed themselves in wonderfully strange fashion.

The notable songs from the night were “Green Lights” which had more energy than the album version and served a great purpose early in the set of getting the crowd moving. This movement halted though when the heart-breaking song “Mamma Hold my Hand” was played. It set the crowd in a lifeless state as they listened intently to each word. Unfortunately his most popular song “I Need a Dollar” failed to impress me personally. It didn’t have the edge on the rest of his set list and I felt it added as an interlude between songs rather than a main highlight. Overall though it was a very enjoyable time, I just wish there was that little bit more.

Despite so minor flaws in the gig, I really enjoyed myself. There were no bad feelings and every person seemed immersed in their own little world, just them and the brilliant music being played. Sarah Love kicked off the night with a bang and Aloe Blacc continued the fizzle, but what I would have liked to see was Aloe Blacc causing a nuclear explosion on the stage, which sadly I felt he didn’t.