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Venue: The Plug, Sheffield
Date: Tuesday 21st May
Bonobo last year was a regular name at several festivals and gigs, but unfortunately always sporting the dreaded "DJ Set" suffix. Now, back with a full band to promote new release The North Borders, he reminded a young party-ready crowd that with a live show it's not all about the tracks; it's how you perform them.
Bonobo's band and setup has varied considerably since his last live tour promoting Black Sands around 2010-2011. The man himself, Simon Green, is now in control of both laptop and bass guitar duties simultaneously for most tracks, providing him with a pretty tricky judgement call for certain more electronic songs such as 'Cirrus' and '1009'. But also present were drums, keys, three lots of brass, a flute, a rhythm guitar, and a singer, but never all at once. The 7-piece band would switch between instruments and coming off and on stage as needed.
Szjerdene (who sings on 'Transits' and 'Towers' on The North Borders), had the tricky task of providing all of the live vocals; juggling her own tracks alongside those originally sung by Erykah Badu, Andreya Trianna, Bajka and Grey Reverend. She gave a fantastic performance, even if at times it felt like she was over-channeling her inner Beyonce and embellishing the tracks a little too much. Yet two of her best performances were 'Heaven for a Sinner' and 'Stay the Same', neither of which she originally performed on, and so she definitely earned her place on the tour.
Clearly aware that a fair proportion of his new fan base had approached from the blossoming house scene, parts of the show had all members of the band leave the stage and proceedings would turn into a Bonobo DJ set for 15 minutes. This actually worked extremely well, but Bonobo certainly hasn't forgotten his roots. Several moments within songs allowed his extremely talented band to show off, with plenty of solos including a 5 minute drum spectacular nearing the close.
Simon Green and his band are one of the most consistently entertaining acts I have seen live. If you're going to Beacons or Soundwave this August, Bonobo is not one to miss.