Photos by Toby Tenenbaum via brooklynvegan.com/
Whenever I’m put in the position to describe the kind of music Bonobo makes, my instinct is to just say “beautiful.” I could go much deeper with it, but it’s kind of the catch all isn’t it?
Sure, the music is also categorized as downtempo, trip-hop, electronic but somehow very organic sounding. It’s easily accessible, widely enjoyed, and yet still sort of underground to some extent.
Where Bonobo can distinguish himself from his contemporaries is with his live tour. Bringing a dozen musicians together to recreate the music from his albums is a task he takes on every few years, to great acclaim from his fans. The last time I caught the live band was at Bear Creek Festival at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park. That was one of my favorite shows I’ve ever seen, really, and so I went into Terminal 5 expecting another jaw-dropping performance. Luckily I wasn’t disappointed in the least.
Moroccan group Innov Gnawa, who appeared on Migrations, opened the show up with their traditional Moroccan music, sort of initiating the ritualistic concert experience for early comers. Fellow Ninja Tune artist Romare took center stage to hype the crowd up with a live electronics set that tossed between techno and experimental rap instrumentals. And then the stage was set for Bonobo’s 90-minute set that was heavy on recent material from the British producer.
The set was crafted so damn perfectly that it’s hard to imagine he’s switching it up from night to night, but I think it’s sort of the point. It’s as if he has woven his songs into a singular composition that takes the audience on a trip through worldly hip-hop beats and more danceable house rhythms. With horns, strings, singers, keys, guitar, bass, buttons, and drums, the sound created is lush and full, not like the flimsy “live band” sets you’ll occasionally hear DJs turn in.
A lengthy list of songs made certain that everyone left with a huge smile on their faces. Heavy on material from North Borders and of course Migrations, the show also peppered in a few cuts from Black Sands and even some of the DJ-focused material like “Flashlight.” Vocalist Szerdene would come on occasionally to take over vocals on songs like “Towers” and “No Reason.” Brooklyn’s own Grey Reverend was in the house to sing a lovely rendition of “First Fires,” and Bonobo even invited Innov Gnawa back to the stage to do their part in “Bambro Koyo Gandra,” the new single from Migrations.
The regular set ended with “Kerela,” but the band came back out to do “Transits” and “Know You,” eclipsing the 90-minute mark for the breathtaking performance. In regards to the live-electronic hybrid experiences that everyone worth their weight tries out in 2017, Bonobo reigns supreme.