Supporting Bonobo were electronic duo ’14th’ with their eclectic blend of soulful garage. With Tracey Duodu’s soulful vocals laid over the electronic palette produced by Tom Barber creating an original sound, it’s easy to see why they were invited to play at the BBCs Maida Vale studios by Rob Da Bank and chosen by Green to support him on this sellout tour. Duodu created a personal touch through her interactions with the crowd between songs without which it was actually quite difficult to tell if the last song had finished and a new one was starting. However as a starter they definitely whet my appetite for what was to come.
Since the release of 2001’s ‘Animal Magic’ Bonobo has become to be considered a master of his art. Having not seen Bonobo live before it was interesting to see how the intense and experimental compositions of Simon Green would translate to a live set. With a new album ‘The North Borders’ Green has bloomed and joined by a full scale live band, The Plug in Sheffield provides the venue for the unique and ever developing sound of Bonobo.
The first single release ‘Cirrus’ opened the set , its percussive sound filling the venue. With Green hopping effortlessly from mixing desk to bass guitar you realise that this is more than a bedroom DJ stuck behind a laptop. This is an artist.
The sound created by the live band seems more orchestral than electronic and this is the beauty of the live band, creating a dynamic sound thats seamlessly switches from jazz infused solos from 2010’s Black Sands to the beat heavy ‘Kiara’. ‘Black Sands’ launched the career of Andreya Triana in 2010 and Green has done it again with SzJerdene. Creating a sound not unlike a Massive Attack record but better. With her vocals providing another edge to Green’s unique brand of pretension free, post party intellectual chill out.
With the band swelling to 8 members by the time the atmospheric trip hop of ‘First Fires’ Bonobo have the audience entranced, demonstrating their ability to translate the twists and turns of Greens compositions. Track after track the experimental sounds prove beyond reasonable doubt the quality of the musicians Green has entrusted to translate his music from the studio to the venue. From the sax and drum solo of ‘El Toro’ through to the more down tempo breaks of ‘Transit’ the set closes with the bass heavy grooves of ‘You Know.
Green returns with his full ensemble for an encore of the Keeper as the auience are introduced to each member of the band. Ending the night with the chilled out ‘Pieces’ the evening ends much in the same way as ‘The North Borders’, immersive and entrancing. Its a perfect way to bow out and underlines the sound of Bonobo in an inimitable way.
Green and his band leave the stage to the kind of applause that lets you know that this was a job well done. Sheffield has been conquered.