Live at Belgrave Hall, Leeds 27th Aug 2022
Definitely ‘on message’ for today’s crowd, Robocobra’s spoken word delivery was in line with half the other acts at this one-day festival (This Must Be The Place). From Yard Act to Dry Cleaning to The Cool Greenhouse, singing is so last year. Where the band differ is the absence of guitars, meaning there’s none of those hints of a Fall rehash. Often mentioned as jazz (thanks to the sax and drumming), the punchy driving music is the star of the show, pushing and grooving, driving and writhing.
Drawing a short straw with a 5pm slot, the band had time for five tracks in 25 minutes and ran no risk of outstaying their welcome. Chris Ryan is palpably the leader of this Belfast band and fuses vocal duties with excellent drumming. The sparse Leeds audience didn’t allow him to get excited enough to win us over with banter (‘Do any of you know Chumbawumba?’) but the set itself was taut and gripping. The bass is a key instrument here, often carrying the melodic line while the sax adds colour and punch as scratchy electronics fill out the space. Even without the vocals, this would grab the attention.
With only time for a short set, the single, ‘Wellness’, was second, with the hilarious deadpan recounting of an influencer’s actual blog. Followed up with ‘Heaven’, one of the album highlights, the tension is high. The next is a slow groover; ‘Chromo Sud’. About the Irish housing crisis, it has a thoroughly excellent drum section at the end. That leaves one to close and the set is over earlier than I’d have liked. There’s a couple of albums out there to explore but here tonight, the mix allowed for a proper appreciation of the instrumental detail, player by player and it shows a band with great potential for jazz / post-punk, provided they have an exit route once talkie bands go out of fashion.