This past Friday night I was lucky enough to pull a last-minute ticket to the sold-out Bonobo show here in San Francisco at the Warfield Theatre, and it was so last-minute that I unfortunately had to miss the opener El Ten Eleven, a band I’ve been hearing a lot of really good things about. But I knew looking up and down the lineup that I would be happy if I arrived at any time, because DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown (aka Erykah Badu) was also listed on the lineup, so when my friend texted me saying they had a few extras, I jumped at the opportunity. Plus Bonobo touring on a new album which I had heard literally nothing from yet made for an interesting show opportunity in and of itself.
We arrived at the show right in the middle of the DJ set by Lo Down Loretta Brown, which introduced itself visually as a standard DJ setup including LED panels in front of the rig including LED mapping on the laptop, which made for a cool dual effect. Erykah Badu is the person behind the persona, which looked like a character straight out of Tarantino movie, and I was intently set on finding clues in her DJ style and see what type of flow she had in the set and what I could take away for my own DJ prowess. But that was the difficult part; this set was all over the friggin’ map. Transitions were a bit sloppy, frantic, and dare I say “bad,” but the whole set was super interesting and no one had any opportunity to be bored by any part of it. And assuming the crowd was potentially bored towards the end, she hyped up the set due up by Bonobo (“Where my 80’s babies at? Where my 90’s babies at?!”) and even sung a verse to a song which lit up the entire room. To never experience her voice in a live setting and have it float over some frantic beats was the show-stopper moment for me, and that was only the “opener.”
When Bonobo made his way out on the stage and drew the attention of the sold-out crowd, it was pretty clear we were in for a full Bonobo experience and he was going to pull out all the stops. The producer held down bass and computers and was flanked by a drummer, guitar, keys, strings and horns with as many as 12 people were out on stage at times (maybe more, I lost count). And they had a solid wall of LED panels behind them to keep things moving visually as the songs took their shape.
Tracks off Black Sands like “Kiara” and “Kong” got some of the biggest applause of the evening when the first notes rang out, and it wouldn’t have been uniquely Bonobo without the help of Andreya Triana, a major part of the Black Sands sound that really needed to be there to get “Eyesdown” and “Stay the Same” played live. A ton of the material off the new album The North Borders found its way into the set and it was just as stunning as everything else this guy lays down on tape otherwise, and we even got to see his “biggest” collaboration in a while take shape live. Erykah Badu guests on the new album’s “Heaven For The Sinner,” which was absolutely flooring when it went down live. And they even dipped into Badu’s catalog by playing her classic, “Bag Lady” (see below for a short clip of that).
Bonobo totally delivered the experience you’d want to see from him, and this tour better continue sometime in the Fall so I can go catch it again once everything from the new album has proper permeated my listening habits this summer. The tour rolls into Solano Beach tonight and continues on to Austin and New Orleans, so go grab one of the tickets out front if you find someone with an extra. This tour is not to be missed.
Some other quick clips that have surfaced:
The floor was mad-packed and security was tight at this show, so I couldn’t even get close enough to snap a solid photo. See below for the bits I got.