Live at The Sage, Gateshead

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I wasn’t exactly sure of what to expect of Bonobo – playing Hall One of the Sage Gateshead for the first time – on Friday 24th May. Certainly I knew the music of Simon Green, but, in fear of showing my age, the last time I really listened to Bonobo with intent was in my late 20’s and that album was ‘Dial M for Monkey’. Undoubtedly there was a quality to that album which shone above contemporaries also creating textured electronica. It was clear that through the Bonobo moniker Green was delivering a more sophisticated take on this than, say, Lemon Jelly, but there was also occasionally a danger that the sound might veer into Morcheeba territory. So, 11 years on from ‘Dial M…’ and though numerous new stuff has come out since, none of it was familiar to me. I’m delighted then to report that the sound of Bonobo made a very welcome return to these ears, and that I will be playing over a decade of new music, including the new album ‘The North Borders’ (available on Ninja Tune) as soon as the postman can deliver it. There were a number of aspects to the gig that demanded my attention, but perhaps the most outstanding of them all is just how close to a post-rock sound much of the music veered. That is not to say it isn’t electronica, because it absolutely is, but the percussion, keys, and strings, layered and constructed towards crescendo appeared much more like a happy cousin to the likes of Do Make Say Think – and that’s a great thing, and the level of technical skill and confidence in performance on show was only matched by the clear sight of just how much fun Green and his band were having. Every musician on that stage excelled, and seemed to delight in the amazing environment of Hall One, but perhaps special mention has to go to the drummer (and I apologise for not catching your name – please get in touch and I’ll make amends) for a 7 minute long solo that had the full crowd erupting in applause. As for Green, I absolutely did not expect for him to be the showman that he was – standing at the controls of a multi media centre including synth, drums, sequencer, mac-book…plus guitars too…and probably more equipment that I couldn’t even see – he appeared to revel on that stage, thanking the crowd numerous times for this experience (and the crowd, in turn, made sure he knew that it was in fact they who were thankful, through much applause, appreciation, and yes full on dancing), and after the final bow coming to the front of the stage to take out his phone to capture that moment. I really must recommend Bonobo as a live act – any doubts I had as to how the sound would translate into a current and vital show were blown away instantly, and the ability as well as the personality and humility of Simon Green and the band made for a massive reconnection for me personally, and put a smile on each and every face in that building.