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

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22 May 2013 saw the first return of Bonobo to Manchester with the talented, rising group, 14th.  He and his troupe of musicians would play the esteemed Ritz on Whitworth Street near Oxford Road train station. Following, he’d dart across Whitworth to Gorilla for a DJ set. With support from 14th, the mood was set with resounding waves of soulful vocals and towering piano keys and strings. Simon Green, aka Bonobo, obvious to most, is one of the most renowned artists out there today. Starting out as a musician, he fell into DJing, releasing his first hit ‘Terrapin’ in 1999, and eventually in 2004 began his first live gigs. Having written and recorded close to all the instruments you’ll hear on his tracks, the only way to give the crowd a genuine representation of his music is the enlistment of a full-on band. From keyboard, to vocals, guitar, trumpets, and saxophones, the Ritz rocked with a different sway.

 Another influential outlet wrote in its review for The North Borders that the album “might be dismissed as dinner party music by those with a hunger for more experimental fare, but The North Borders is charming, fascinating and a touch mysterious–exactly the qualities you’d want in your dinner party guest”. Well I’d encourage these ‘dinner party guests’ to see a live gig before they question the mood his music sets or how experimental it is. Songs that typically sounded quite chilled out suddenly felt immense, almost dark, and charged with energy. Special thanks to the spring-loaded dancefloor, providing the crowd with an even stronger connection to the music.

Known for rocketing new stars into the spotlight such as Andreya Triana and BajkaBonobo’s new siren of The North BordersSzjerdene, provided most of the vocals throughout the set. Cornelia even made a special appearance as well. The set was largely made up of songs from Black Sands and The North Borders, probably something to due with the popular opinion that the latter is a direct evolution from the former. 

 After 14th had finished and fans had crowded round the bars framing the groundfloor, a familiar, yet heavier tune chimed out. It was ‘Cirrus’ off The North Borders. The bars emptied as a crowd amassed as near as possible to the stage. For a sold-out show, one would expect a crowded room, but this felt like being tinned in a can of sardines. If ever it was too much though, one could also seek out the gods above. Szjerdene soon joined Green on the stage, providing tender vocals for Andreya Triana’s ‘Stay The Same’ off Black Sands, while brass instruments washed golden waves of sound over the crowd. Following, ‘Heaven for the Sinner’ was performed, although Szjerdene’s voice seemed to be a little drowned out by the magnitude of the brass instruments to her left. The musicians departed briefly from the stage for Bonobo to provide a Black Sands favourite, ‘Kong’. As he strummed his bass, a golden star pulsed back and forth across the vertical screens behind him. Having only ever heard this track off the album, the live rendition was overwhelming. The crowd was in ecstasy, hands in the air in adulation. 

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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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