Bonobo @ Brighton Centre – 21 November 2017

It was only fitting that former Brighton resident and erstwhile Tru Thoughts signing Bonobo played the last gig of his ‘Migration’ tour at the Brighton Centre. As the largest music venue in the city, it was probably the only place that could accommodate his many local fans.

With a steadily growing queue forming outside the box office due to a cock-up with Songkick tickets, some attendees would have missed excellent support act George Fitzgerald playing tracks such as the melancholic house ballad ‘Full Circle’ from his fantastic debut album ‘Fading Love’, as well as more techno-tinged tunes from new release ‘Update’.

During the interval with more lengthy queues at the bar, a speaker announcement built up the anticipation with a countdown to Bonobo’s appearance on stage. Simon Green and his full live band, complete with string quartet and horn section, promptly began with the title track from latest album ‘Migration’, accompanied by a huge audiovisual display on the screen behind them.

Szjerdene Mulcare provided understated, but distinct vocals for tracks like ‘Break Apart’ and ‘No Reason’, sung by Rhye and Nick Murphy (Chet Faker) on the album, her voice blending seamlessly with the bold, fulsome sounds created by the eleven-piece band. Green himself showcased his multi-instrumental talents, alternating between synthesisers and guitar, while we were taken on a visual journey through vast desert and mountain landscapes, before huge lasers beamed out across the room.

Happily, they played a mixture of old and new material from Bonobo’s extensive repertoire, such as ‘Kiara’ and ‘We Could Forever’ from the 2010 album ‘Black Sands’, while with ‘Cirrus’ from fifth album ‘The North Borders’, they managed to create an almost spiritual experience when bang on the beat, confetti burst forth from above and showered down in glittering fragments on the enraptured crowd.

The African-influenced sound of ‘Bambro Koyo Ganda’, featuring Innov Gnawa, a sextet of Moroccan musicians based in New York, was particularly well-received and finishing the set with ‘Kerala’, the standout track of the new album, which ingeniously samples Brandy’s ‘Baby’, really got everyone moving their feet and begging for more.

Our whoops and whistles were rewarded with two encore tracks from ‘The North Borders’ namely ‘Transits’, sung beautifully by Szjerdene and ‘Know You’. It would seem Bonobo does indeed know his audience. A meticulously crafted and executed show, just like each of his tracks, it can only be described as an epic treat for the senses.

Tru Thoughts 18th Birthday Party @ Brighton Dome – 18 October 2017

What better way for our favourite local record label Tru Thoughts to celebrate their 18th anniversary than by bringing some of their top artists together for a special party at Brighton Dome. This one-off show preceded a larger all-day festival at the Roundhouse in Camden on Saturday.

The Dome bar was buzzing to the tunes of Robert Luis and J-Felix, DJing to a diverse cross section of gig-goers, including children brought along by their trendy parents, reflecting the diversity of music on the record label, from Quantic’s Latin-inflected beats to Rodney P’s UK rap, as well as the longevity and wide-reaching appeal of the label.

Playing to a fairly sparse but engaged early crowd in the main theatre, the exciting new two-piece signing Werkha were joined on stage by vocalist Bryony Jarman-Pinto, whose distinctive vocal style incorporates soul, folk and jazz.

After a break for refreshments, Quantic manned the decks, playing a selection of his old and new material for the next hour, including tracks from his latest album ‘Curao’, featuring the vocal talents of Colombian singer Nidia Góngora. He journeyed through his back catalogue with our pick of the best Tru Thoughts tracks, ‘You Will Return’, dancehall from 2010 album ‘Flowering Inferno’ and classic Quantic in the form of ‘Time Is The Enemy’. While an uplifting and varied selection, the ever-increasing crowd weren’t paying much attention, as there wasn’t a great deal to watch on stage.

After a rather long interval while the stage was set up for the full live band, playing with local songbird and first lady of Tru Thoughts Alice Russell, the tiny vocal powerhouse belted out ‘To Dust’ from the homonymous album. Clearly enjoying playing to her hometown “Brighton peeps”, with her trusty multi-instrumentalist, right-hand man Mike Simmons on backing vocals and violin, she ran through several more tracks from the 2013 album, such as ‘Heartbreaker pt 2’, ‘Citizens’, which she attributed to Brexit, and the funky, jerky ‘For A While’.

Will Holland aka Quantic joined her on stage with his banjo for a rendition of the jazzy ‘I’d Cry’ with a French-sounding violin section by Simmons. Old pals and collaborators Russell and Holland bounced off each other and even shared a giggle, before things took a more sombre tone with a bewitching version of ‘Let Us Be Loving’. The minor keys on keyboard and violin combined with Russell’s impassioned voice must have struck a chord in the heart of every listener in the concert hall. Another track from 2008 album ‘Pot Of Gold’, ‘Got The Hunger’, built up into a frenzied crescendo before the band closed with a version of the White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’, during which several members of Hot 8 Brass Band appeared on stage to contribute a horn section.

Hailing from New Orleans, the larger than life Hot 8 Brass Band filled the stage; their enormous figures equalled by their enormous, brass horns. Having picked the North Laine as the location for their fantastic 2015 video of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Sexual Healing’, as well as playing a sell-out show at the Dome during Brighton Festival earlier this year and leading the Children’s Parade, it’s fair to say Hot 8 have a special affinity with the good folk of Brighton.

With their unique take on well-known classics like Al Green’s ‘Let’s Stay Together’ and Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, the crowd really came alive. By the time ‘Sexual Healing’ came along, everyone was on their feet and singing along. Responding enthusiastically to the call to “get on down”, the crowd collectively dropped it low and engaged with gusto to the call and response. Despite so much foot stomping the floor might have caved in, there was sadly no encore, though this was probably due to the Dome’s strict timings rather than any reluctance on Hot 8’s part.

If this birthday party is anything to go by, Tru Thoughts are stronger than ever, continuing to nurture new talent alongside their more established artists. Here’s to the next 18 years!

Haçienda Classical @ Brighton Racecourse – 9 September 2017

Brighton Racecourse Live was due to launch last Friday with The Human League, Marc Almond and The South. However, the Great British weather put a dampener on that plan and the outdoor event was sadly cancelled for safety reasons, lest the stage take off in the high winds.

Fortunately, the winds died down the following day and the Saturday event went ahead as planned. Entering Brighton Racecourse just before sunset, just as Stereo MCs were wrapping up, the upbeat crowd of ageing clubbers were all there to relive the Hacienda days of the 80s and 90s, born at the legendary nightclub FAC 51 The Hacienda in Manchester.

With an outdoor bar, food stands, a sufficient number of portaloos and the stage set against a setting sun, dance music stalwarts Groove Armada began warming up the evening with a banging set of dancefloor classics, such as their own ‘Superstylin’’ and ‘I See You Baby’, mixing with sing-at-the-top-of-your-voice tracks like ‘Passion (Do You Want It Right Now)’ by Gat Décor and a genius mix of Candi Staton’s ‘You Got the Love’ blending seamlessly with their remix of ‘Talk To You’ by Drewxhill.

Frustratingly, lengthy queues at the bar in the interval meant thirsty punters had to wait up to an hour to get served. Clearly a bigger bar and more bar staff needed.

The Manchester Camerata orchestra filled the stage with DJs Mike Pickering and Graeme Park taking a back seat behind their mixing decks. After problems with the sound during their show at Brighton Dome last year, it was satisfying to hear the classical instruments alongside well-loved house tracks in their full splendour. The set started with a reimagining of ‘Anthem’ by one hit wonders N-Joi and remained in quite a gospel vein for the next few tracks.

The singer Rae Hall belted out Ultra Nate’s ‘Free’ amongst others before Manc icon Bez postured around the stage for ‘Shaker Song’ by Playtime Toons. A very pleasant surprise it was to hear an orchestral version of ‘Yeke Yeke’ before Peter Hook’s rendition of ‘Blue Monday’. The energy really picked up with the last few tracks sung by Rowetta, including ‘Peace (In The Valley)’, ‘Ride On Time’, with Bez and Hooky joining her for ‘Where Love Lives’ and closing with – you guessed it – ‘You’ve Got The Love’.

The well-known dancefloor classics brought back fond memories for all the middle-aged ravers, while their classical reinvention adds a new dimension for the modern era: joyous, uplifting music performed by talented musicians. With sell-out shows all over the country, the Hacienda Classical project is an unprecedented success.


Loyle Carner @ Concorde 2 – Thursday 6 October 2016

Loyle Carner performing live at Concorde 2, Brighton East Sussex, 6 October 2016

Playing a sold out show at Concorde 2 on your 21st birthday might intimidate lesser mortals, but hotly tipped south London rapper, Benjamin Coyle-Larner doesn’t seem remotely phased, while fully appreciating the significance of the occasion, having played at the venue before to lesser crowds.

Over the past year, Carner has released a stream of insightful and erudite tracks to critical acclaim, including his debut EP ‘A Little Late’ and single ‘Ain’t Nothing Changed’, which was added to the BBC Radio 1 ‘In New Music We Trust’ playlist. Carner also made the esteemed BBC Music Sound of 2016 long list, as well as collaborating on tracks with his friend and talented musician/producer Tom Misch, and with fellow MC Kate Tempest.

Local hip hop duo Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn are the perfect support act with their melodic beats and laidback lyrics about everyday life in Portslade. They appear to have brought along half the under 20s population of the local area and receive an incredible level of support from their loyal following. Already on their second album ‘The Flowers In Your Room’, after debut ‘This Morning’, their popularity is set to expand beyond the shores of the South East.

With an oversized football t-shirt as a backdrop, Carner comes out clutching his stepdad’s Eric Cantona shirt, later explaining that before he sadly passed away, they had plans to tour together, so it’s his way of ensuring his stepdad is always with him on stage. His bars are strewn with references to the father figures in his life, as well as a deep and loving respect for his mum and other family members.

It’s this ability to paint vivid portraits of family life with such painful honesty that makes his music resonate with people, especially a younger audience. Launching into ‘BFG’, a heartrending tribute to his late stepfather, his easy flow imbibed with raw emotion as he spits the line “Everybody says I’m fuckin’ sad / of course I’m fuckin’ sad / I miss my fuckin’ dad”. It strikes a chord with everyone in the room.

Bouncing from one side of the stage to the other, the youthful energy of ‘Stars And Shards’ has his young admirers rapping along to the lyrics with arms in the air. This concept track centres around a lost soul, who goes chasing the end of the proverbial rainbow but finds hollow happiness when he gets there. His DJ Rebel Cleff then comes out from behind the decks to join him on ‘The Money’ and it’s obvious the two have a special bond, Cleff announcing at the end of the track that today is Carner’s birthday, to rapturous applause.

Despite apologising for telling too many stories, he tells us the story of how his mum (who is present) always wanted a daughter, but ended up with two sons instead, so he wrote the track ‘Florence’ to give her the next best thing. With the crowd singing along to the chorus by underrated singer/songwriter Kwes; “I see you perching on the corner of the weeping window pane / You’re growing up fast just like the flora / The world is yours, come shine or rain”, Carner then reveals his mum’s plans to adopt a baby girl. Life imitating art.

In between tracks, he also tells us a guy had a seizure at his gig in London the previous night and implores the young audience to take care of themselves and stop squashing those at the front against the barrier. This plea unfortunately comes too late, as earlier a girl had collapsed in the heaving throngs and was escorted outside by security. Lay off the drugs on a school night kids.

There’s a short interlude while Carner asks if he can do a poem – or “a capella” as he used to call it at gigs in order to “sound cool” – called ‘Isle of Arran’, before playing ‘Tierney Terrace’ “for anybody who’s got a deadbeat dad,” another poke at his absent biological father and the place where he spent quality time with his grandparents. Alluding to a fight he had with someone over his family-orientated content, Carner and Cleff then burst into a jubilant rendition of ‘Ain’t Nothing Changed’, culminating in the audience singing happy birthday to a clearly overwhelmed Carner; the cameraman and his friends storm the stage, spraying him with silly string and chuck party poppers and balloons into the crowd. This is definitely a birthday he won’t forget.

Putting his stepdad’s t-shirt on over his wiry frame, which he describes as looking like “a big twiglet with a head” for the poignant ‘Cantona’ – his stepdad’s hero – it’s obvious why this confessional vulnerability has the audience hanging on every word, each one delivered with clarity and intensity. He finishes up with latest release ‘NO CD’, a more upbeat track, which demonstrates he can do light, as well as dark.

The whole room is jumping in a celebratory mood as he cheekily tweaks the lyrics from “Oh Please, we ain’t got no p’s / Because we spent all our money on some old CDs” to “spend all your money on my new CD”, referring to his completed album. Due out early next year, it will feature a great new track with Tom Misch that he previewed earlier for us. And rather abruptly it’s all over. No encore. But you can’t blame him on his birthday.

Loyle Carner is a rare talent who isn’t afraid to let his guts spill out all over the floor. His striking candour and eloquence translates effortlessly to his adoring fans. Together with J Dilla-inspired production and a smooth, skillful flow, he is such a genuine, likeable character, you can only wish him the best. He has a bright future ahead of him and his late stepfather would surely be proud.

Loyle Carner performing live at Concorde 2, Brighton East Sussex, 6 October 2016

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Boundary Brighton @ Stanmer Park -17 September 2016

boundary-festival-brighton-source-mike-tudor-studio85-uk-16-1For a debut festival, Boundary Brighton ran incredibly smoothly, which is testament to the organisers, although ticket sales were down, resulting in a flash sale of heavily discounted tickets at the last minute. With a distinctly Brighton-centric feel to it, four stages hosted by the city’s leading music institutions – Patterns, Concorde 2 and The Arch – were set for international DJs and live acts, including Craig David’s TS5, Groove Armada, Seth Troxler and Congo Natty. Nestled between the crest of the South Downs and the city, Stanmer Park was the perfect setting for a festival. The recent cohort of freshers making up the majority of the crowd from neighbouring Sussex and Brighton universities, were in high spirits, but didn’t get out of hand.

Arriving around 1pm, there wasn’t a huge number of people, but early arrivals could enjoy wandering around the relatively small site, browsing the stall selling hats and hoodies, buying tokens for the bar, which had a rather limited selection of drinks on offer, checking out the similarly limited choice of food stalls and contemplating taking a ride on the big wheel or swings. With glimpses of sun breaking through the clouds, Submotion Orchestra played a rather subdued set on the main stage, but their distinctive blend of electronica, bass, ambient, jazz and dub, coupled with the great voice of singer Ruby Wood, got a few people on their feet to tracks like In Gold and It’s Not Me It’s You.

Jungle were up next with a slightly boring DJ set. To watch two guys twiddling knobs in the middle of the main stage wasn’t all that exciting and the volume wasn’t nearly loud enough. Having seen the full Jungle band play live at Bestival, it made one crave a more visual experience. Equally, Groove Armada’s DJ set was underwhelming and beset by a quiet sound system. Even their big hits like I See You Baby and Superstylin’ fell on deaf ears. While the volume issues continued, reggae/ska/dub nine-piece Gentleman’s Dub Club switched the energy levels up several gears, with vocalist Jonathan Scratchley bouncing across the stage to feel-good tracks like Music Is The Girl I Love and High Grade. There also seemed to be several musicians from Submotion Orchestra moonlighting in the band.

Over at the Elrow stage, brightly decorated with neon flowers, stars and CND signs hanging from the marquee, Seth Troxler and Richy Ahmed brought the sounds of Barcelona and Ibiza, mixed with the visual spectacle of confetti filled air, inflatable rubber rings and crowd surfing chickens. Meanwhile, inside the London Warehouse Events tent, with an exterior façade made to look like a club with concrete walls, hard core festivalgoers enjoyed DJ sets from underground house and techno DJs, such as Tom Trago and Joy Orbison. It was also a good place to warm up when the sun went down.

The Bandstand stage perched on a hilltop overlooking the site, drew a large, enthusiastic crowd firstly for Krafty Kutz and A.Skillz with their finely honed back and forth mixing with a collection of bangers and breaks. Then for Jaguar Skills, playing his mash-ups of genres from hip hop to drum ‘n’ bass, complete with his trademark balaclava. The smell of hotdogs wafting over from The Dog Haus was slightly distracting, so might be worth rethinking the location of the food stalls next year. As night fell Toddla T took the stage and kept the crowd going, even to the extent that a couple broke through the barrier and on to the stage. They were quickly removed and the MC got things back on track.

Without a doubt the biggest crowd of the day gathered for the headliner Craig David’s TS5. For those who remember his first appearance on the music scene back in 1999 with the two-step garage classic Re-Rewind (The Crowd Say Bo Selecta) with Artful Dodger, Craig David is synonymous with early noughties garage and r’n’b.  After almost a decade in the musical wilderness following his public ridiculing by comedian Leigh Francis, which ‘destroyed’ his career and made him escape to Miami, David is enjoying the biggest comeback since Justin Trousersnake. With a legion of new fans from the next generation, he is back in the charts and has won the hearts of the British public once again.

Accompanied only by decks and a mic on stage, Craig started with the intro from R. Kelly’s Bump ‘n’ Grind before mixing in Re-Rewind and uttering the immortal line “With Craig David all over your…”; his silky smooth voice as flawless as it sounds on record. And with that, he had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. What followed was a one-man masterclass in mixing, singing and MCing. Playing a mixture of his old and new material, classics like 7 Days, Fill Me In and Walking Away went down a storm, while his latest hit When The Bassline Drops was just as well-received. Playing a selection of nineties/noughties hits, such as the 2000 garage anthem Flowers by Sweet Female Attitude and 1993 dancefloor favourite Show Me Love by Robin S., he also put his own spin on current tracks like Drake’s One Dance. The love from the crowd was palpable and you could see he was genuinely revelling in the moment. Craig David, it’s great to have you back.

Perhaps a line-up with more live acts and less DJ sets, which were more or less in the same vein of dance music, would have added more variety to the festival and made the visual experience especially, more satisfying. There’s always next year.

Craig David

Craig David Performing at Boundary Festival, Brighton, England. 17th September 2016.

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Julian Marley @ Concorde 2 – 16 August 2016

ShowImageSon of Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley, Julian ‘Ju Ju’ Marley is a Grammy award nominated, roots reggae musician, singer-songwriter, producer and Rastafarian. On a rare UK tour, any reggae fan worth their puff would be a rasclat to miss it. The first of his six destinations, reggae lovers in and around Brighton flocked to Concorde 2 on a balmy Tuesday evening to witness a touch of Marley magic.

Support act Iba MaHr ‘The Black Youth of Harar’, a young sensation for authentic Jamaican reggae in the lovers rock genre, got things off to an energetic start, skanking and gyrating around the stage, while showing off his lovely, quivering vocals, a little reminiscent of veteran reggae singer Horace Andy. With lyrics clearly inspired by Rastafarianism, roots and culture, MaHr is flying the flag for old skool reggae to inspire a new generation.

With the addition of two female backing singers, the excellent seven-piece Uprising band remained on stage for Julian’s set. After being introduced by the effective hype man, Marley, looking and sounding so similar to his famous father, with his thigh-length dreadlocks swaying around his lanky figure, played tracks from his first album ‘Lion in the Morning’ (1996), ‘A Time & Place’ (2003) and 2009 album ‘Awake’.

Performing fan favourites like ‘Systems’, with the kind of social commentary on Babylon of Bob’s songs;’Violence in the Streets’, the collaboration with his arguably better known brother Damian and ‘Lemme Go’, by the time he got to the irresistibly catchy ‘Boom Draw’, the cheerfully stoned crowd were singing along to the patois chorus “Catch up all a fire / Fi go burn di sinting sinting weh strong”.

‘Build Together’, ‘Harder Dayz’ and ‘Sharp As A Razor’ showcased the musicians and backing singers complementing Julian’s husky vocals superbly. He also debuted new song ‘Warzone’, a slow, touching number and a few covers of Bob Marley’s classics, including ‘Exodus’, which Iba MaHr joined him on stage for, and ‘Africa Unite’, both of which possibly gained the most enthusiastic reception.

Coming from reggae royalty, one has to wonder how much Julian’s fame is a result of the Marley name and legacy. Undoubtedly, this has put him and his brothers Damian, Stephen and Ziggy, in a privileged position within the music industry, but there’s no denying the guy is a talented musician, singer and songwriter in his own right and his late father would be proud of him.

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Wild Beasts @ The Old Market – 28 July 2016

Wild-Beasts-The-Old-Market-Brighton-Source-Mike-Tudor-Studio85uk-1-702x468“Shocked, delighted and disgusted” is how frontman Hayden Thorpe described reactions so far to their ‘Boy King’ tour. With their fifth album to date, released in the UK on 5th August, Wild Beasts change course yet again, with an angrier, more 80s sound with lots of synthesisers. A concept album dealing with the self-destructive effects of modern-day masculinity, it was recorded with producer John Congleton, who has previously worked with St. Vincent and Swans. This departure from the emotive, heartfelt ballads found on previous album ‘Present Tense’, may explain the wide ranging reception from fans. As bassist Tom Fleming put it, “The last record was made up of love songs. This one is all f**k songs.”

In a stuffy theatre at The Old Market, the stage set up with three long lighting panels either side of the stage and the creepy dark face with red eyes and lips from the album cover as a backdrop, the four band members walked on, each with a guitar and synthesiser, except the drummer. Kicking off with new single ‘Get My Bang’ with its heavy bassline and exploration of sexual alter egos, Thorpe’s note perfect voice took on a gruffer tone. Swigging red wine between songs, Thorpe then launched into another new track ‘Big Cat’, the words flashing intermittently on the lighting panels, while repeating the lyrics “Big cat, top of the food chain” in his inimitable falsetto.

The new tracks were received with mild enthusiasm by the mixed age crowd; somewhat inevitable given people may not yet be familiar with the material. However, ‘A Simple Beautiful Truth’ and ‘Daughters’ from ‘Present Tense’ definitely got a warmer reception and gave Fleming a chance to show off his lovely baritone vocals. Drenched in sweat, Thorpe told the audience he was going to play some older stuff from a time when he didn’t “sweat profusely on stage” and by the time they got to ‘Hooting And Howling’ from 2009 album ‘Two Dancers’, several members of the audience were moshing wildly in front of the stage and nearly everyone was singing along.

Mellowing the atmosphere with a beautiful rendering of ‘Mecca’, they then finished with new, gender busting song ‘Alpha Female’ with Thorpe proclaiming “alpha female, I’m right behind you” – the Beasts at their playfully clever, songwriting best. Returning for an encore with the hauntingly fragile ‘Wanderlust’, where Thorpe cautions “Don’t confuse me with someone who gives a fuck,” the band closed with the otherworldly ‘Celestial Creatures’ from ‘Boy King’, expounding the mantra “These are messy times that we’re living in / Down here on Earth all is forgiven”; particularly poignant given the current political climate.

The overall performance was fairly faultless, but somehow didn’t connect as much as one might have hoped. While ‘Boy King’ may not be to everyone’s taste, diehard fans will appreciate Wild Beasts are evolving their sound and experimenting with new ideas. Only time will tell if the album is a critical success or not.

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