The experience of watching Bonobo is a difficult one to pin down, as each song seems like its own universe…
As soon as I stepped foot in the colossal foyer of Colston Hall I could almost taste the waves of excitement radiating across the venue. The atmosphere was packed with a heady rush of anticipation. The crowds of people congregating at the doors were tipsy and merry, engaging in fervent conversation with other drunken revelers, preparing for their fix of chill house beats. You may be asking yourself – who was this anticipation for? However, if you are a sentient human being then you are most probably aware of the massive hype that surrounded Bonobo’s highly anticipated, sold out show.
The set opened with support DJ Catching Flies animatedly flipping switches and pressing buttons to create a sultry smooth tone. His breezy song ‘Grey Skies’ created an overarching sensation of relaxation that made virtually everyone in the crowd nod their heads emphatically. Catching Flies’ timed his drops well, plunging the crowd into atmospheric moments of calm. His layered vocal samples, and brass interludes made for a vibe not far from the warm dusky nights of summer. His cheekily subtle steel drum sample was also effective and vaguely stylistically similar to Jamie xx’s ‘Far Nearer’.
By the time Catching Flies’ had finished his set, the crowd’s anticipation was almost palpable, so when the downtempo legend himself stepped onstage with a greeting of “Hey Bristol, It’s been a long time!” the crowds cheer for Bonobo became deafening. He then promptly opened the set with ‘Cirrus’, which made the venue erupt in flailing arms. The bass of the track combined with the bells made for a truly euphoric listening experience. This was heightened as the song became amplified a thousand-fold by the soaring acoustics of Colston Hall creating an all-encompassing embrace of sound. Bonobo’s use of material from Black Sands also made for an engaging set as the whirling, danceable beats of ‘We Could Forever’ seemed to rouse most of the sitting audiences to their feet to jam the night away.
Bonobo’s live band was chosen perfectly as each band member worked in perfect unison to deliver a slick, tight set. The drummer in particular blew the crowd away showcasing his almost ridiculous levels of talent during a freestyle drum solo. The show’s visuals also matched the precision of the band, each light highlighting the mesmerising nature of the music so that it seemed almost as though we could catch a glimpse of another world behind the hypnotic lighting. This was seen in full force during ‘Transits’ as the lights dimmed to a soothing orange glow, as though the stage was bathed in candlelight, highlighting the intimacy of the song.
The experience of watching Bonobo is a difficult one to pin down, as each song seems like its own universe, provoking a kind of temptation to lose yourself in each of the discrete moments of his songs. Bonobo’s music is that of introspection, but the communal experience of it at Colston hall seemed to create a feeling that a momentous secret was shared with each of the audience members. This sense of awe was showcased perfectly by the impressed murmurs of a couple sitting next to me, who looked stunned before simply concluding with the following: “That was fucking brilliant.”
Watch the video for ‘Cirrus’ right here: