Live Review: Bonobo, Rock City (20/05/13)


Bonobo, aka Simon Green, casts a solitary figure washed in a chill blue hue amongst the assortment of mics cluttering the stage. The jumble of material that litters the floor is an early indication that this will not be a typical DJ set. This will be a performance, and man does Mr. Green know how to deliver.

To launch the set, Bonobo begins with ‘Cirrus’ from The North Borders, a rippling melody composed of chiming percussion that undulates throughout the room like folds of coloured silk. The dreamy melancholy of this track is reminiscent of Black Sands and Green finds the audience at his feet within seconds.

As the last notes die in the air, we are treated to the entrée of Bonobo’s glorious collective, comprising of no less than a drummer, keyboardist, three piece horn section, bass player and beautiful vocalist Szjerdene.

Expertly contrasting upbeat tracks such as ‘Jets’ and ‘Emkay’ with mellower tunes like ‘First Fires’ and ‘Pieces’, Bonobo wields his musical prowess with expert control; a musical puppeteer, he is adept at manipulating the mood of his audience.

Szjerdene’s silhouette sways against a wall of splicing yellowed lights and the hype calms as she takes to the stage, gracefully sinking into ‘Towers’ followed by ‘Transits’; a seamless transition from the up-tempo to the sublime. The crowd falls into a transcendental reverie.

Bonobo’s collective operate like the fine mechanisms of a watch, gliding faultlessly together. Following the jazzy notes of ‘El Toro’, they strip back the multitude of sounds to its core; the talents of the drummer and saxophonist are showcased as they embark on impressive solos which climb back up to a roaring crescendo, matching the enthusiastic hollering from the crowd.

Bursting into ‘.We Could Forever.’, the vibe of the room flips like a two pence piece as jazzy melodies are exchanged for bouncy rhythms, showcasing a jumpy flute, heavy sub-bass and an Afro-influenced sound. It is as if the roof of Rock City is torn aside and sunlight streams in: this tune is made for summer, sand and sea.

An extended encore is always greatly appreciated. The highlights of the final flourish include Szjerdene’s rendition of Adreya Triana’s much-loved ‘The Keeper’, a track loved for its haunting vocals. The final track of the evening is ‘Know You’, allowing the frenzied audience to bask in the notes raining down on them.

Bonobo’s electronic tunes have developed over the course of his musical career into multi-layered, textured and ambient grooves. Infused with a myriad of elements from soul and jazz to triphop and downtempo funk, it is impossible for Bonobo to be consigned to the realms of lift music or coffee shop background filler, as so many other chillout artists unfortunately are. Bonobo is a shining example of live electronic music at its absolute best.

Helena Murphy


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