Bonobo featuring guest vocalist Nicole Miglis was a dazzling sensory experience!
Bonobo’s new tour is a stunning visual experience featuring the exquisite vocals of Nicole Miglis of the band Hundred Waters.
Having just recently performed a solo DJ set at Piknic Électronik, on Thursday night Bonobo returned to our fair city with a full band and tore the roof off the Théâtre Olympia with an inspired performance. The concert was as visually stunning as it was aurally stimulating. It was a dazzling feast for the senses, both in terms of the music and due to the mind blowing lighting design and video projections. Every song had the audience mesmerized.
For those who are unfamiliar, Bonobo is the artist name of the British composer Simon Green. He creates beautiful music that is a blend of trip hop, downtempo, world music, nu-jazz and electronica. His critically acclaimed music has received numerous awards & nominations at prestigious ceremonies like the Grammy’s and the Electronic Music Awards. In 2001 he signed with the record label Ninja Tune and I couldn’t imagine a more perfect fit!
Currently touring his seventh studio album “Fragments“, his live show features a full band of accomplished musicians. Simon plays bass, synths and various electronic devices. He is complemented by a drummer, keyboard player, guitarist and a 3 piece horn section of trombone, trumpet and clarinet. The clarinet player Mike Lesirge also played saxophone, flute and additional keyboards. The result is a layered wall of sound of delicate melodies, world music elements, deep sub bass and intricate rhythms.
The last time I saw them live was the tour for the album “Migration” and the set list was quite mellow & contemplative. This time they played an energetic upbeat set that had the crowd dancing, singing and screaming for more. I was eagerly anticipating which singer would be touring with them as they have a deep roster of vocal collaborators. I had my fingers crossed that it would be Andreya Triani because I was a little disappointed that she was not present the last time I saw them perform. Her voice is silky smooth and I was dying to see her sing live.
However, for the third song when the stage lights dimmed and a vocalist emerged, it was a total curve ball! As she began singing her unmistakable voice revealed her identity. I started jumping for joy because it was Nicole Miglis of Hundred Waters! I had no idea that she was touring with Bonobo! For the first song they performed their collaboration “Surface” from the Migration album. Her delicate ethereal vocals floated over top of the music, providing sweet soothing sensations.
Throughout the concert she sang many times, gracefully exiting at intervals to leave space for instrumental songs. Her unique vocal style totally fit on classic Bonobo songs that were originally sung by incredible guest vocalists like Rhye, Andreya Triani and Chet Faker. Having seen Hundred Waters perform four times I was hoping we would also be treated to Nicole playing flute or piano. She is an accomplished classically trained musician. Sadly it was not to be!
But ultimately it really didn’t matter as the skill of Bonobo’s musicians was beyond reproach. I was particularly impressed with the creativity of the drummer Jack Baker. He kept us dancing all night long with intricate rhythmic grooves and a constant flow of innovative drum fills.
My only criticism of the show was that the sound quality was not impeccable. For a concert with such high production values in terms of the visuals effects, the sound was often lacking in definition. It was hard to distinctly hear the individual sounds of the guitars, keyboards and horns. It was more of a wash, a melodious wall of sound. I was hoping to be able to focus on individual instruments and really vibe with the interplay between them. As well, some of the electronic drum sounds like a hand clap and a rim shot were too loud in the mix and a little harsh in terms of the EQ.
The concert was originally planned to be at Metropolis, a venue well known for its ability to handle the production values of stadium quality concerts. Which makes me wonder if the 97 year old Théâtre Olympia needs an upgrade to its sound system and acoustics or whether the sound mixer was just having an off night? Luckily, for the encores the sound issues were resolved and the subtle interplay of all the instruments was distinctly audible. Which payed big dividends on the heartbreaking slower songs like Break Apart and Stay the Same.
Some other highlights of the set were fan favorite songs like Cirrus, Kerala and Bambro Koyo Ganda. But every song was a total sensory experience. From beginning to end the crowd was levitating. I can’t stress enough how impressive the lighting design and video projections were. The production values were on par with that of a stadium show at the Bell Center.
Be sure to check out Bonobo’s new album Fragments. Hell, do yourself a favor and pick up a few of his albums! They never disappoint! As always, please buy your music directly from the artist. Streaming sites make it practically impossible for musicians to make a living. Here is the link to Bonobo’s official store where you can get deluxe editions of his albums, vinyl, hoodies, t-shirts etc…
Likewise check out Nicole Miglis’ band Hundred Waters. They are similar to bands like Bonobo & Thievery Corporation in that their music is on the downtempo tip and they are a hybrid of traditional acoustic instruments and electronic machines. But their aesthetic is more on the artistic / conceptual / sound design side of the musical spectrum. They are a band of multi-instrumentalist avant-garde composers who are influenced by minimal electronic music. Their live show is also a visually stunning experience of immersive video projections & cutting edge lighting design.
In closing I also need to give a shout out to the opening act Thomas White, a local producer and DJ who absolutely killed it! I hadn’t heard of him before and was really impressed with his set. Musically I found it reminded me of a hybrid between artists like Bonobo, Four Tet, Herbert with a bit of a Warp Records edge to it. His set was a nice blend of experimentation, melody and sound design while not neglecting to give the people a proper beat to dance to. He had great stage presence that really connected with the audience.
For reasons unknown, the opening act for the tour Yu Su was unable to perform in Montreal. So Thomas was booked at the last minute to fill in. It is certainly no easy task to land a gig of this caliber and have no time to plan, prepare & practice your set. Likewise, it can awkward to do an opening set all alone on a massive stage instead of from the safety of a more secluded DJ booth. But to his credit, he rose to the occasion like a champ and gave us a memorable performance that really pumped up the crowd. I’m doing a deep dive into his Soundcloud page as I write this and his productions are quite unusual and interesting! Check him out…
Click here for information on the latest Montreal Oktoberfest edition Aux Quartiers Belle Gueule. From September 22nd to October 1st!
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Simon is 20 years into a life sentence in the music biz. He's performed at major international festivals and worked with Grammy Award winners. As Music Curator for BKM he gives you a sneak peek behind the curtain...