Bonobo at the Ogden Theatre, 4/26/13
A capacity crowd filled the Ogden to see Bonobo this past weekend. However, words like "sold out" and "capacity" don't accurately describe the electric scene inside and outside the theater. Every nook and cranny of the theater from the rafters to the rear of house was filled with a pretty face, a ball cap, or a dread loc waiting for the show to start. The vibe was all love and patience as everyone looked like they might have skied up to the front door for the show. The pungent wafts of herb reinforce the heavy snowboarder vibe, but the crowd came alive as the lights dimmed and they never lost an ounce of energy.
Bonobo is known for its chill grooves, but the live show is all about heavy beats. "Cirrus" from the new album, The North Borders, got things started, and it banged hard, eliciting a huge response from the audience. What sounds like a paired down lounge groove on the album is a roaring mid tempo thumper live thanks to two keyboard players, Bonobo himself (aka Simon Green) on bass and incredible live drums. Songs often blend into each other, and Simon promised that the entire Bonobo catalog would be represented.
Before long, Szjerdene (who has an excellent EP, Patchwork, out on Ninja Tune) came out to do her part on the incredible "Towers," which thumped like it was going to break the stage, until it transitioned smoothly into "Stay the Same," from Black Sands. Szjerdene carried the vocals for the wide range of featured vocalists on Bonobo records, and that was just fine with the crowd.
Szjerdene did each song justice without trying to make them too much her own. This was especially appreciated as the band segued perfectly into "Heaven for the Sinner," which didn't suffer at all from the absence of superstar feature Erykah Badu. It cannot be understated how much the live arrangements add to the vitality of the songs, that and the kinetic light and video show.
Opening formalities out of the way, Szjerdene left the stage, and all the lights went out. It was time to dance. Hard. "Kiara" a stand out from Black Sands got things started, and that catchy wobble went hard at the Ogden. For about fifteen minutes, there was no band, no singer, just a man, a machine and some motherfucking beats.
This could easily have been the highlight of the show had the band not slipped back onstage to dissolve into "Ketto" from Days to Come. Cue the live saxophone (which admittedly always sounded a little too Riggs mourns Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon 2 for me), and the whole party was taken to another level higher.
I was glad to see so many nods to the early catalog, especially to hear older songs get rearranged with the band involved. Before long, Szjerdene returned to the stage to perform The North Shore's "First Fires," which is set to be the new single. This one was all about the light and video show, which was as mesmerizing as the song.
"We Could Forever" got the biggest response of the night. The tune had the whole room bouncing, hippie shaking and shimmying. "Walk in the Sky" ended the show on a smooth jazz latin vibe which allowed for some great solo work from the drummer and the sax player. Simon, who had pretty much been silent up to this point, promised to return later this summer for another show at the Filmore. For an encore, the band delivered a smoldering version of "The Keeper" from Black Sands.
Personal Bias: Bonobo as an artist has only sold a few hundred thousand albums world wide. He is in the middle of a sold out tour, and lots of CDs and vinyl were getting purchased at the merch table. I don't think worldwide sales figures account for sales at the show.
Random Detail: The sound at this show was pretty peerless, and this is coming from someone who has seen hundreds of shows at the Ogden over the last twenty years. In a word: it sounded "gorgeous."
By the Way: Simon Green, aka Bonobo, is a DJ first and foremost, and the glue that held this whole show together was his DJ's aesthetic. The whole thing came together like an audiovisual mixtape.
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