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Bear Creek Coverage: Bonobo blows the Suwannee away

Now that my mind has had a few days to process exactly what went down at the Amphitheater stage last Friday night, I can officially say Bonobo’s Live Band performance was one of the most spectacular–if not the most spectacular–live shows I have ever seen.

I can’t imagine a more suitable setting than the Suwannee for such a raw, organic performance, but honestly, it could have taken place in the middle of an empty field with the sun beating down on us and I don’t think it would have made any difference. The crowd wasn’t paying attention to anything else around them–all eyes were locked and loaded front and center, on the singing angel that is Szjerdene (pronounced JhurDEEN). Each time she graced the stage with her presence, the entire crowd grew silent, entranced, just waiting for her to open her mouth and serenade us with this beautiful voice that is simply impossible to describe.

All I can say is that it truly made me weak in the knees. Her movements come off so naturally and the emotion in her voice is effortlessly genuine; the crowd cannot help but completely retire to the world around them. I swear, for that hour and a half, we were abducted from the stress and craziness that is the real world, and placed on a pedestal where for once, nothing mattered and everything seemed so simple.

But, let’s not forget the mastermind behind this entire operation, Simon Green, better known as Bonobo. This guy is the real deal, a true master of his craft on all sides of the spectrum. Whether it’s in the studio producing, or out on stage with the drum sticks and electronic bass guitar, he can do no wrong. His music has a way of hitting you so hard mentally, physically and emotionally, but in such a reserved way.

“We couldn’t wait to get back here,” Bonobo told the crowd soon after they took the stage. The last time Bonobo had seen the Suwannee was during Bear Creek 2010 at the Purple Hat Stage, and I think it’s safe to say we were just as anxious as he to get him back in the woods.

The band played extended versions of most of the tracks from Bonobo’s latest album The North Borders. Most specifically, I remember Bonobo trading in the sticks for the bass during a flawless transition of “Cirrus” right into “Sapphire.” “Know You” kept us going with this unexpected bass drop that you could only experience in a live setting. Standing out to me the most though, was their mesmerizing rendition of “Pieces,” where the whole crowd was singing along in unison: “love is in the eyes of the beholder,” while looking around for what sounded like real birds chirping among us in the trees.

“Kiara” from the 2010 album Black Sands added just the right amount of funky electronic bass lines and you’ve just gotta love that violin melody.

They closed with “The Keeper,” and I don’t think they could have picked a better track. Szjerdene came back out on stage and for one last time, we were captured by her spell. Singing, “Sat down here with my head hung down/ And I just seem to find/ A bit of peace/ A bit love/ A bit of something left behind,” I think I speak for everyone when I say we never wanted it to end. She left us with, “We shall go on, in this way/ Cause we can’t go on living this way” and I’ve never seen the Suwannee so speechless.

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