I’ve known the name Roy Ayers for as long as I can remember, but I’m not sure how I discovered him. A lot of people I asked had never heard of him, which was surprising to me, as some of his hits, like Everybody Loves the Sunshine and Running Away are internationally well-known. Perhaps it’s a case of people knowing the songs rather than the artist. Known by many as ‘The Godfather of Neo Soul’, Ayers has been around since the 70s and helped pioneer jazz-funk. He is also famous for having more sampled hits than any other artist and has collaborated with the likes of Fela Kuti, Erykah Badu, A Tribe Called Quest, Tupac, Talib Kweli and most recently, Tyler, The Creator.
I missed his performance at Concorde 2 last year, so was keen to catch him this time around and luckily, my friend had a spare ticket (sorry, still owe you for that one!) It was a last minute dash to get there in the pouring July rain, but the unseasonal weather didn’t seem to have kept people away and there was a positive vibe from the significantly older crowd.
There was just enough time to grab a pint before Roy Ayers was introduced on stage and entered wearing a matching camo t-shirt and jacket, which I was rather taken with! Cool as a cucumber, he began to play his vibraphone, an instrument in the same family as the xylophone, which also shares similarities to the marimba and the glockenspiel. I must confess, I had no idea what this instrument was and was fascinated by the sounds he made with it, at times similar to a piano, at others, almost like a harp. Then his silky smooth vocal blended in seamlessly with the music played by a very tight four-piece band, including an extremely talented keyboardist, who played a number of solos, while Roy looked on in appreciation.
After a string of big hits including Searchin, Can’t You See Me, Evolution and a sexy I Wanna Touch You Baby, the tinkly opening notes to Everybody Loves the Sunshine provoked a great cheer from the audience as the stage was bathed in golden yellow light, making everyone forget about the torrential downpour outside and transporting us to a mellow, groovy, sunny place. Then halfway through, Roy said he’d like to introduce a very special guest, ‘who just happened to be in town’ and none other than 90s soul singer Omar walked on stage and took up singing the lyrics, whilst Roy and his backing singer chanted ‘Omar’ over and over again. What an unexpected treat!
It was obvious the band were enjoying themselves and wanted to play on, but unfortunately, they had to finish bang on 10pm to clear the venue for the club night. I for one, was left longing for more, but then, I probably could have listened to them all night and still wanted more. I hope they come back next year.