Bonobo at Vicar Street, Dublin, 27 February 2017
Near the end of his set Bonobo says to the crowd, “thanks for coming guys, this nearly wasn’t going to happen due to logistical reasons.” Thankfully, it did go ahead as planned and the show actually sold out shortly after tickets went on sale. Clearly people still have an affinity for veteran musician Simon Green aka Bonobo, who recently released his sixth studio album ‘Migration’ at the beginning of the year. On the night he’s backed by his band which includes a brass section and singer Szjerdene. Over the course of the evening the crowd is treated to a slick and accomplished performance from an artist that really knows how to construct a stellar show.
Although it’s not the biggest venue, Vicar Street is the perfect location for Bonobo and his entourage as the intimate nature of the venue makes for an all-around better show. The music is accompanied by some stellar visuals which really bring the show to life. Bonobo’s music does a great job of creating an atmosphere anyway, but the visuals just add that extra layer to make the show feel truly unique. Speaking of the music, Bonobo kicks things off with an extended instrumental which really sets the tone for the rest of the night.
After that, we see Szjerdene make her first appearance of the night with the delicate number Break Apart. It’s the older track Towers however which really gets the crowd’s attention, as she delivers a captivating performance even as the music breaks loose near the end. The set as a whole is meticulously crafted and there is a great balance between instrumentals and songs with Szjerdene at the helm. There are times though during some of the softer ballads where the crowd take it as an opportunity to chat amongst themselves. It’s bad enough when you can hear the chatter over the music but it’s just disrespectful when someone is singing.
Thankfully, things quieten down when Bonobo brings out of one of his old stalwarts, Kiara. It’s the first genuine pop of the night as the crowd finally comes alive. Bonobo’s distinctive mix of the electronic and acoustic is on full display as the brass soars above the aggressive synth bass. Bonobo follows it up with the playful Kong which really gets the crowd moving. You can tell that he’s a musician first and a producer second as there is always a great attention to groove no matter how layered the production becomes.
At times it feels like you’re watching a finely-tuned machine in full flow, with each part backing up the other. There are moments though where the band go off stage and it’s just Bonobo left onstage to work his magic. It’s during these moments that you realise just how great a performer he is. Every good DJ has a few tricks up his sleeve and Bonobo certainly has some on the night. There’s one point during an outro where it seems like things are petering out but then he bursts into We Could Forever which really enlivens the crowd.
That’s the thing about a Bonobo show, no matter how accomplished it may seem there’s always an air of spontaneity that surrounds it. He’s at a stage now in his career where his repertoire speaks for itself and when it comes to his live shows he’s a master of knowing how to use it. Even though things don’t finish on the strongest note with Know You the sold-out crowd is still treated to a masterclass from a performer that is in total control, even when it seems like things are becoming unhinged.