Roundhouse, London, 29 May 2010
Ten years since his debut on a small independent label,
Animal Magic, Simon Green's career under the Bonobo banner
has spiralled slowly upwards to land him tonight's headline
spot at a packed Roundhouse. Green has come a long way since
his old cut-and-paste sample-based days.
successfully prised himself away from the bland, formulaic
coffee table overtones that saw the whole chill out scene
eventually congeal into a sickly sweet, beige goop in the
early noughties, he has gradually moved towards creating
his own music from scratch. With samples swapped for real
instruments, vocalists and orchestral, jazzy arrangements,
this led to the well-received Days To Come in 2006 and latest
album Black Sands.
move from sound selector to sound creator is in full evidence
tonight with live strings, brass, drums and keys all combining
for opener Kiara. Starting out contemplatively orchestral,
it ends up being underpinned by a jacking hip-hop beat and
deep bass and overlaid with retro videogame-style electronic
easy to mistake the xylophone playing, maraca shaking, laptop
fiddling, knob twiddling, king-of-all-he-surveys on the
raised platform as the man pulling the creative strings.
However, when Green finally speaks after a few well-received
tracks from the new album, he reveals himself stage right
as the bass and keyboard player. This may be his music but
the way he merges into the band it's clear there's no ego
Triani then comes to the stage to command the limelight.
Her vocals, which pepper the album liberally, are strong,
soulful and smooth and form the ideal complement to the
music. The overall sound is big, perhaps too big at times
as various layers merge and the details, and vocals, get
a bit lost in a sea of bass. This is more likely down to
the set up of the sound system though and, rather than ruining
the performance, merely takes the edge off of it.
manages to retain a relaxed air to proceedings overall.
There are a couple of moments where squealing self-indulgent
solos take over but these are thankfully kept to a minimum
and melody and harmony form the overall focus.
ends her performance of Eyesdown by cleverly sampling and
layering her own vocals several times to harmonise with
herself. The rousing strum of Recurring is then followed
by the reggae-style intro of new album standout We Could
the crowd scream hungrily for more, Green and co. return
to perform the enchanting, gypsy-like Black Sands which
breaks down into a full on sax and drum duel midway through
before rebuilding back into the main track. Triani then
leads the flute-hooked Kong and Bonobo's largest gig to
date is over.
musicianship, a wealth of talent on stage and a performance
honed to perfection, the only chink in the armour could
be that this kind of music may be better suited to wafting
across a sun-drenched festival field than in the dark big
top that is the Roundhouse. Not that the passionately vocal
crowd seemed to care about that of course.
following may have swelled slowly and organically but with
tonight's performance proving to be a qualified success
and Green's music increasing in confidence and depth with
each album, that following can only be set to grow further.
- Ian Roullier, 05/2010