Fusion of frantic dance energy and genuinely inventive ever-changing sax improvisation.
Belgrave Music Hall Leeds 22nd Feb 2022
Even leaving aside the Covid years, it’s been ages since I experienced a concert with the energy and groove of this one. It barely paused in an hour and a quarter – one tune running seamlessly into another and the frantic beat pushing the audience to greater excitement. It was that good.
The Sons Of Kemet are pretty groovy in the studio but are one of those rare bands whose live act is really quite different. No vocals at all, drums given an upfront mix, and every aspect of the propulsive elements turned up. Shabaka Hutching’s sax is almost entirely percussive. A few lyrical moments but, until the quiet and gentle (‘go home now’) solo sax encore, energy is on keeping that beat going. Theon Cross’ tuba doesn’t get sound that lets us hear notes clearly and largely functions as oompah, in the role delegated to bass guitars instead of the melodies we hear on disc. He does get a solo and I hear a couple of lines that sound like a flugelhorn and wish we heard a little more of that elsewhere. Such is the ferocious energy of him dry-humping that tuba that Cross pauses frequently to empty fluids from the horn. As you’ll know from records, Tom Skinner and Eddie Hick lay down amazing afrobeat and cross-cutting stellar impulsion. Here they do it faster and more so, pushing the front of the crowd into leaping and spinning.
The fusion of frantic dance energy and genuinely inventive ever-changing sax improvisation is enthralling. No sheets of sound, no parping, no show-boating, just on-the-beat constant playing that tells a melodic story and pushes it about too. His sax is more a rapper, spitting out notes on the beat than a fancy singer riding atop the rhythm, until Afrofuturism reaches levels that just can’t be topped and the set comes to an exhausted end.
As we pause at the end, Hutchings grins infectiously, delighted at the response, and says; “We’ve played a few UK gigs around the country now, in the last few days, and we realise how much we need your energy. We ask that you take that energy out with you and do with it what you will”.