Simon Green has an uncanny ability for identifying, stretching, and layering samples upon each other – to the point that the end product is gorgeous, self-contained, and almost unrecognizable from the source material. Green, who has been producing and remixing under the name Bonobo for over 15 years, is a veteran of many great live shows, no doubt aided by the incredibly talented live band he has put together. The sextet helped bring songs from his catalog to life, and added further dimensions and energy to the ninety minute set to a sold out audience last night at the 9:30 Club.
With a set list that spanned multiple musical genres including garage, techno, synthpop, and even acid jazz, there was really something for everyone. Green has always had eclectic taste – as reflected in the wide variety of aesthetics present throughout his discography – and last night it was on full sonic display. As band members flitted on and off the stage, Green served as the anchor during controlled chaos, even as the accompanying visuals and light show transformed the 9:30 Club stage into an alien planet – a place where Mars met the Amazon.
Green’s backing band deserves a great deal of credit as well, helping elevate the songs beyond their studio versions. This was an experiment we first saw with his Live at Koko set almost a decade ago, but it’s clear that this group has finally hit their stride. Vocalist Szjerdene Mulcare made each of the tracks her own, regardless of who sang the original (no mean feat when you’re filling in for Rhye and Erykah Badu), and she was resplendent in all white. Jack Baker kept the pulse throughout the night, playing complex drum patterns that lent the entire set an air of forward momentum, and Ewan Wallace (guitars), Mike Iesirge (woodwind), and Jonny Tomlinson (keys) filled in negative spaces with rich, nuanced instrumentation.
All in all, it’s gratifying to see that Bonobo’s brand of atmospheric, enveloping tracks are augmented and elevated by the addition of the live touring band, helping a great act reach stratospheric new heights.