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Bonobo’s First Return to Manchester: Live vs. DJ Set



Another Black Sands hit, ‘Kiara’ shook the floor with its broken beat as oriental violins danced through the air. ‘Emkay’ off The North Borders followed suit with its skipping beat and distorted vocals. Szjerdene soon rejoined us for a passionate performance of Grey Reverend’s ‘First Fires’. Her hands cried out with her as she stood strong, close to her microphone, embers on the screens reflected off her dress. It was a gorgeous rendition, but I would’ve loved to hear it off Grey Reverend. An absolute highlight had to have been ‘Recurring’, harking back to Days to Come. It began like a lullaby, like I remember it from the album. Strings plucked away. But, it quickly dropped to blasting basslines, bathed in a flashing, lime-green light. The crowd went a bit mad for it. I’m a little ashamed to admit that I couldn’t fathom how intense his music was live and I’ll admit to it over and over again.

The flute musician’s solo for ‘We Could Forever’ off Black Sands brought the best dancers out in the crowd. Szjerdene’s voice couched with that pervasive glockenspiel was a force to be reckoned with for ‘The Keeper’, off Black Sands, usually sung by Triana. To finish it off, Cornelia joined the stage to sing the melancholy, final song off The North Borders‘Pieces’. Although it was hard to shake that impending sense of the show’s conclusion, the crowd loved it. If it weren’t for his afterparty, one might’ve foreseen a riot.

Following the live set, the crowd poured across the road to Gorilla. The venue was significantly smaller, with a small mezzanine, equipped with a bar towards the back wall. Green soon arrived behind the decks for 12:30 and played for two hours a different side to his music. Some hits were to be had, such as another drop of ‘Kiara’, but all in all, it failed to detract from his live set. The honest opinion I received off many who had attended both gigs was that all the afterparty did was make you realise how good the live gig was. The sold-out venue seemed to be more than just full and instead full of kids there to get wrecked in lieu of admiring a real artist. Alas, his set soon found itself adjacent to the clientele. The music became heavier and fast-paced, more house even, sounding less and less resembling of what we experienced at The Ritz. Maybe that’s alright though. It wouldn’t make much sense to try to recreate something that can only really be produced through the talent of several collaborating musicians. The die-hards had already had their fill and now it was time to just have a good time. Bonobo’s stated himself in an interview with Winter Circle Media that DJing “doesn’t represent the way [his] music is made in the first place”. 

I’m not so sure whether Bonobo is a man, a producer, a DJ, a band, or a sound. However, he’s certainly one of the most revered artists of our generation. It’s comforting that he still manages to avoid the hype and focus instead on the music. He’s a great shout for a DJ set, but if you really want to see what his talent and innovation truly sounds like, it’s best to see him live. You’ll never comprehend what it’s like to hear each instrument genuinely, vocals included. He may write the music, but it’s clear that he’s not out for any personal gain. He would much rather you hear the music in its entirety than keep all the glory, huddled behind a laptop. If you’re not up to much the first weekend of July, I’d heavily recommend seeing him at the Mostly Jazz, Funk, and Soul Festival in Birmingham. He’ll be headlining on Friday, 5 July 2013, for Leftfoot, voted one of the best club nights by Gilles Peterson‘s listeners back in 2003. 

Grahame Farmer

Grahame Farmer’s love affair with electronic music goes back to the mid-90s when he first began to venture into the UK’s beloved rave culture, finding himself interlaced with some of the country’s most seminal club spaces. A trip to dance music’s anointed holy ground of Ibiza in 1997 then cemented his sense of purpose and laid the foundations for what was to come over the next few decades of his marriage to the music industry.

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