10:58 am Apr. 2, 2012
Celebrating a birthday at Le Poisson Rouge is nice enough, but probably nothing to write home about; playing to a sell-out crowd, however, is more likely to be one for the scrapbook.
Electronic musician Bonobo, Simon Green, took to the decks on Thursday night in the Bleecker Street venue, celebrating his 36th birthday and the launch of his latest remix album. Since releasing his debut album Animal Magic in 2000, Bonobo has been steadily rising up the electronic music totem pole, selling out shows in his native England, as well as in the States, where he currently resides.
His last proper album, Black Sands, was released exactly two years ago to the day of Thursday's show. Now we have Black Sands Remixed, an album collating reworkings of tracks on the original by a gaggle of artists imbued, like Bonobo, with penchants for the subtler, more intricate side of electronic music.
As the crowd swelled into L.P.R.’s gallery bar, bunches of black balloons attached to mini C.D.s of the album migrated like octopi into the center of the room. The poster for the event featured Bonobo holding one such balloon, reminiscent of Banksy’s Balloon Girl—perhaps a nod to Bonobo’s U.K. roots, or maybe just a playfully dark reference to the birthday under way.
Cold, blue lights swirled over the faces of the crowd as they chattered away and sipped cocktails, waiting for Bonobo’s set to begin. As unrowdy as Bonobo’s music, which tends toward the ethereal end of the electronic world, his fans waited patiently until, at the stroke of midnight, the stage was his. The large flashing “Bonobo” projected across the screen behind him was unnecessary; the unmistakable violin solo of “Prelude” was all the introduction the young producer needed.
Sans the full band he normally tours (and records) with, it was clear the vibe would be less pensive than usual, more geared toward body-moving than thought-provoking. Dancing commenced almost immediately, and at the back of the crowd two revelers twirled heavy-duty glow sticks all night, highlighting that this was a higher-energy affair than the usual foot-shuffling, head-bobbing Bonobo show.
Bonobo played an hour-long set that moved through the downtempo folktronic of his earlier work, through to tracks with wobblier bass and Brazilian accents, and on to funkier numbers. Where the Black Sands Remixed album is more like homage to Bonobo’s work through the remixes of other artists, last night’s set demonstrated his own aptitude at remixing. This was truly hammered home in the last ten minutes of the show. Taking two songs that in many ways were made to be sampled, he gave the xx’s “Crystallized” and Lana Del Ray’s “Video Games” the full Bonobian treatment.
Even given his winning way reimagining others’ music, his own hits were what drove the crowd wildest, particularly those featuring collaborator Andreya Triana’s vocals. “The Keeper” and “Eyesdown” both got the crowd’s hands in the air, only to quickly fall back down by their sides as huge grins stretched across their faces and swaying ensued.
Used to getting their own way at his live performances, Bonobo’s fans’ cries for an encore weren’t granted. He smiled gleefully and shook a few hands at the front of the crowd, then put his hands together and took a quick bow before shuffling off stage—hopefully, to indulge in a piece of well-deserved birthday cake.
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