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Bonobo - Caught live at Islington Academy (2006)


Review by Jack Foley

I LAST caught Bonobo live at the Jazz Cafe in January 2004, just after he decided to recreate the sounds of his albums using a six-piece band for the first time.

Since then the artist, aka Simon Green, has gone from strength to strength. His new album, Days To Come, is one of the best releases of the year and continues to stretch the artist in terms of ambition and scope.

Its notable for the presence of a singer – Bajka (pronounced “Biker”) – whose sultry tones provide the perfect backdrop to Bonobo’s deft blend of beats, samples and instrumentation.

This new, successful combination came to beautiful life at the Islington Academy on Thursday, October 26 (2006) when Green and musical cohorts recreated some of the choicest cuts from each of his long-players for the benefit of a rapturous sold-out audience.

And it’s only in live form that you begin to realise just how unselfish an artist Bonobo truly is. For while the music is most definitely of his creation, the focus is very rarely upon him.

Instead, his fellow musicians often take centre stage, with a saxophonist standing out on several occasions, along with a guitarist and drummer.

At other times, it was the turn of guest vocalists Bajka and Fink.

Green himself plays bass and remained ever-present at the front of the stage, resting comfortably between his colleagues. But he remained an unassuming presence – occasionally introducing a record, or thanking the crowd, but more often content to let his music do the talking. Hell, he even wore a comfy grey cardigan for a lot of proceedings.

But don’t let that fool you. The music is truly special. Whether it’s classic track The Sicilian, from an earlier album, or the breathtaking Nightlite, from the current long-player, the songs are all memorable in some way.

Bajka lends a smokey, soulful presence to Green’s music and seemed to grow in confidence with each visit to the stage, while the presence of Fink for atmospheric album favourite, If You Stayed Over only underlined the diverse nature of the album.

The evening drifted from moments of aching beauty and sublime chillout to more rousing pieces of jazz-funk – Between The Lines proving that the DJ can really get the dancefloor buzzing when the mood takes him.

Certainly, the crowd at the Academy seemed to love every minute, cheering every song heartily, and encouraging Bonobo at every opportunuity.

Further highlights included Ketto and Recurring from Days To Come, both instrumentals, and Plug from Animal Magic.

But with a set that lasted a little over 80 minutes, the emphasis was on the new material and there were even a couple of tracks that are works in progress – both of which hinted at more special things to come.

If you get the chance to see Bonobo live, it’s well worth making the effort. Watching him recreate the blissful sounds from any of his albums is an opportunity not to be missed – as the crowd at Islington will gladly testify.