By Alex Cooper
Si Green, more commonly known as his DJ alias Bonobo, is a master at his work. His genre-bending career cements him as a pioneer of electronica and puts him up there with the greats. He returns to Manchester, flanked by a full live band and a small orchestra, in support of his UK top 5 album Fragments, prior to four consecutive shows at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Not bad.
Fragments, like much of the art produced over the last couple of years, was born out of lockdown musings. Green, after extensive touring of his previous record Migration, returned back to his current residence in Los Angeles to be hit with devastating forest fires and then coronavirus. The way Green countered this was to spend time with nature, something which he continued from his touring habits.
This is all crucial information when understanding Bonobo’s current iteration; something far advanced from the early days in Brighton’s basements. There were no less than 7 individuals on stage at one time, as well as Bonobo himself. Every member in the live setting contributed to a serene and frail sound while staying ostensibly as an electronic act. It is something akin, in a separate genre, to Bon Iver’s direction on their third album 22, A Million, where Vernon transcended genre and created a fragile yet computer-generated folk sound.
Support came from Montreal DJ Jacques Greene. Greene performed a 30-minute set to a decent crowd. His support slot comes off the back of the release of EP Fantasy, another record inspired deeply by nature, as well as the feeling of loneliness and anxiety permeating alone time. Greene, with a low-key setup, got the expectant crowd up for the main event with ease. His set showed his full range, with a matching impressive light show. He received a good response and it became clear why he had been selected to appear at this high-profile gig.
Now packed out, we waited patiently for the main event. A wide range of instruments revealed themselves on stage, making it ostensibly clear that this was a gig to be remembered. On cue, Si Green walked onto the stage with an acknowledging wave and began constructing 2021 single ‘Rosewood’, along with members of the live band. A rich, dynamic plethora of sound emerged, which the crowd harnessed immediately and got swept along with.
Vocals were sporadically provided by Nicole Miglis, of the band Hundred Waters, providing vocals on her own collaboration ‘Surface’, then covering songs such as ‘Shadows’ (in place of Jordan Rakei) and ‘From You’ (in place of Joji). Having live vocals provided important texture in the set. The main criticism you could level at Bonobo is that the set could get repetitive given his music is thematically situated. However, the variations with the orchestral backup on some songs and live vocals on others clarified a stunning live show and made you excited for each configuration.
As the set progressed, it became clear that the audience was witnessing a career’s progress unfold before them. Bonobo is approaching veteran status in electronica, and his current live show acts almost as a verification. Mixing songs with effortlessness and being surrounded by incredibly talented musicians must be for Green an adequate reward for all his hard work.
Towards the latter half of the set, a man in front of me started FaceTiming his friend to show him the concert, which was in equal measures confusing and compelling. Yet they both seemed to enjoy it, so power to them.
The last song of the main set was the driven and punchy ‘Otomo’, which caused Victoria Warehouse to revert back to its Warehouse Project days some nine years ago. The crowd’s feedback to this rise in energy was explosive; partly as this was Manchester on a Friday night, but also because the track is a banger. The song played out with one extra drop, and led to a half-hearted vacation of the stage, as we all knew there was to be an encore.
Green thanked the crowd and said how good it was to return to Manchester, which he will do again when headlining the opening night of The Warehouse Project with Caribou. Miglis contributed vocals to ‘Break Apart’ and ‘Stay The Same’, and bid her farewell. After a jazz interlude, which slowly built in intensity, the strains of ‘Kerala’ emerged. The catchy sample reverberated around the room with the audience becoming one with the track, jumping up and down as a collective. I felt a sense of euphoria being able to experience this in a collective space.
When Bonobo finally wound things down, the reception was warm. It was a set of masterful control and seeing a professional (and indeed professionals) carry out their work incredibly. But most of all, Green looked like he was having fun showcasing his talent, and that translated to the 3,500 strong crowd. A joyful and spectacular show from an individual at the top of their game.
Information is taken from Fragments press release and Jacques Greene’s Bandcamp.
Bonobo will return to Manchester at The Warehouse Project’s opening night, with Caribou and SNO. Tickets available from WHP22 website.
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