Let’s face it, live electronica can often leave the audience rather nonplussed. The ability to be able to transfer perfectly produced masterpieces crafted in the studio to the stage can be something of a holy grail. But Bonobo’s gig at the Roundhouse tonight is an ideal blueprint for any other artists daring to make the leap to a live show.
Ninja Tune have taken over all of the hallowed halls of the Camden venue to host a launch party for new album The North Borders. Those who arrived here earlier got the chance to catch live sets from label stablemates including The Invisible and new signing Machinedrum. And before the main act we are treated to some slickly mixed classic tracks, courtesy of Giles Peterson.
The show proper starts in a low key manner – despite the protestations to “make some mother***ing noise” (really? For a Bonobo gig?). Bonobo (or Simon Green to his family and friends) together with a fellow keyboard player and a drummer slip onstage almost apologetically. But as soon as the opening bars of one of the standout tracks and first single off the album Cirrus resonate around the building the audience are rapt. This sets the tone for the evening – guest musicians stepping up to sprinkle their own expertise as each track builds layer upon layer.
Green takes centre stage throughout, alternating between keyboards, bass and seemingly beating out rhythms on various synth pads. The stage is bathed in rich reds and purples while behind the band a strobing screen of white lines pulses to the beats. The only other concession to a live ‘show’ is a slightly incongruous 15ft long remote control Zeppelin camera which slowly circles the venue. It’s slightly Spinal Tap-esque but is swiftly forgotten as it’s the music that (rightfully) takes centre stage tonight.
The setlist largely weaves in tracks from the new release and outstanding previous album Black Sands. Highlights for me include a thunderous, pulsing version of "Kiara", and opening track of the new album First Fires featuring live trombone, sax, trumpet and sumptuous strings –the shimmering, heartstring-pulling tune almost had grown hipsters weeping into their plastic pintpots. And not even a fire alarm could dampen the evening with just a handful of tracks to go.
The crowd took it in good spirits – indeed it was almost like an interval to allow us to reflect of the set so far. When we eventually file back inside the full band treats us to a few more gems including a memorable version of El Toro led by the sax player and drummer. On this evidence expect to hear a lot more of Mr Green and co.