Let me start by saying this was one of the best gigs I’ve been to in a while. Every member of the band is super talented and played a tight, faultless set. They are one of the rare acts that sound better live than recorded. The absence of lead singer and new mother Ruby Wood was no bad thing, as the three guest vocalists were all excellent and added great variety to the performance.
I came to Submotion late, having missed their first two albums Finest Hour and Fragments. It was only when they released Alium in 2014 that I discovered their eclectic sound spanning electronica, bass, ambient, jazz and dub ‘that sits somewhere on an axis between Bonobo and London Grammar.’ Their latest album Colour Theory goes a step further with meticulously crafted production and fresh, young talent on guest vocals, creating a cohesive album with elegance and finesse.
The five-piece band started aptly with Intro from Fragments, filling the Concorde with powerful, yet delicate music. The first guest vocalist Alyusha was then introduced – a vision in a beautifully embroidered kimono and the face of a geisha – to sing Red Dress, the first track from the new album and she certainly did it justice, sharing the purity of Wood’s voice but with a unique tone, she was utterly mesmerising. She seemed a little nervous to start with, but soon got into her groove with Time Will Wait and Blind Spot from Fragments; the enthusiastic crowd singing along, encouraging her to let rip on that feelgood line ‘so bless us all’ before the spine-tingling drum beat kicks in.
Next up was the brilliantly named Billy Boothroyd, a fellow member of Shlomo’s The Vocal Orchestra and guest vocalist on Colour Theory’s More Than This, which he sang with heart and soul. A self-assured singer with a goosebump-inducing voice, he brought the house down with his rendition of the earth shatteringly bassy In Gold. As third guest vocalist Andrew Ashong pointed out, both he and Alyusha ‘have got some serious pipes’.
Mr Ashong was a pleasant surprise guest, having decided to jump on the train from London to Brighton after enjoying the company of SubMo so much the previous night at Electric Brixton. His track Needs on the new album is one of my favourites, so I was delighted to hear it live from the man himself. Another up and coming homegrown talent, Andrew was full of praise for his fellow musicians and had a calm, understated presence.
After the Japanese influenced Kimono, Alyusha returned to the stage for the crowd-pleasing It’s Not Me It’s You, before the guys showcased their musicianship and synth-twiddling prowess with Thousand Yard Stare; their clear enjoyment and immersion in the music both infectious and impressive. All three singers then collaborated on Worries, their voices complementing each other respectfully.
Back for an encore after much applause and foot-stomping, Billy covered Hymn For Him, hitting the high notes effortlessly, before the last song of the night: All Yours from their first album, sung with a big smile by Alyusha and a gorgeous trumpet solo from Bobby Beddoe. As my sister put it, this is ‘make you feel alive music’.
Also published on Earlybird Media