Brighton-born producer, Bonobo returned to London for his first UK shows on his current world tour last weekend. His sixth studio album ‘Migration’ went to Number 5 on the UK charts in January, yet more vidence that Bonobo is now a true cross-over artist. These two dates at Brixton 02 Academy sold out quickly and the young audience crammed into the majestic, neo-classical surroundings were buzzing for an evening of chilled out, melodic vibes.
His entrance is unassuming as he creeps onto the stage with the rest of his live band, which features a horns and strings section. It’s comforting knowing that the man also known as Simon Green is willing to just let his music do the talking. But with no discernable leader to capture the audience’s attention it means a heavy reliance on the quality of the visuals. And my lord are they glorious.
Ever since his public consciousness breaking fourth album, ‘Black Sands’, the grand landscape visuals have been integral to Bonobo’s appeal. Photographer Neil Krug produced the artwork on his most recent album. His otherworldly photo sets, which use a drone flying over the reddened Majove desert in California, paint Bonobo’s music with a martian glow.
The effect is especially effective on the lilting ‘Break Apart’ whch is followed by the equally lovely ‘Towers’ with vocalist Szjerdene Mulcare delicately mixed in with the rain forest like background.
Trekking back to your mates after a mid-gig pint to the stirring sounds of ‘Bambro Koyo Ganda’ is a pretty epic experience but some songs don’t translate as well to the live arena. The slow builds of new tracks ‘Ontario’ and ‘Figures’ fail to produce the same arresting results that they do on record extenuating by having to lead into the best track on the new album, ‘Kerala’.
For his new centrepiece, Bonobo sends the string section and horns away from the stage for the full on Bonobo club experience. He also does away with the visuals and the whole place bounces with the energetic live sound. It shows that when he goes all out it can make for an electrifying live prospect but unfortunately the wandering moments of the full show fail to carry the same excitement. Without the visuals on the slower tracks the show really wouldn’t work.
Luckily, there are enough ‘Kerala’ moments for anyone with even a passing interest in the DJ extraordinaire to be stunned into transcendental submission.
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Words: Richard Jones