PHOENIX – Tuesday, October 3rd, gave way to a beautiful early fall evening despite the higher temperatures during the day. This weather lead to what locals likely hoped was an adequate welcome for musical visitors from across the pond. Either way, Bonobo and his live band were greeted with immense enthusiasm by Phoenix music lovers.
Bonobo was one of the first shows announced for The Van Buren when the new downtown venue initially revealed its opening date, and many Phoenix area fans bought tickets as soon as they heard about this stop on Simon Green (aka Bonobo) and his band’s world tour.
Early in the evening, the diverse and interesting crowd that gathered within The Van Buren’s gorgeous walls seemed excited. One could easily sense the anticipation in the air. Many people were hanging out in the lobby area or enjoying the beautiful weather on the patio outside. Once the lights dimmed, people rushed to fill the floor, looking for the best spots available. It was a packed show that was nearly entirely standing room only, and people seemed hesitant to get close to one another at first. By the end of the evening, this part would change.
As the first few songs came on, heralded by pure white stage lights and a bright white Bonobo logo on the backdrop, people were tentatively interested. Fans or acquaintances of Bonobo already know that his music is quite chill and ambient most of the time, and he certainly started out with a couple of rather calm songs. Looking around the crowd, one might notice people gently swaying, bobbing their heads, and perhaps even wiggling around a little; otherwise, they seemed a bit unsure of how to properly enjoy the show.
This uncertainty did not last long, however. Soon, Bonobo and his wonderful travelling companions warmed up the crowd with increasingly energetic beats. Shortly after the beginning of the show, they were also joined by the immensely talented and stunningly gorgeous Szjerdene. She began serenading the crowd, making for an entrancing accompaniment to the surreal tunes of Bonobo. Her dress was perfect for the interesting lighting as well, as more and more colors were added. The dress was made up of huge, bright white, vertical stripes that reflected the blues, purples, oranges, and reds of the light show. Overall, the entire stage took on a dreamlike quality. This gave the performers a mysterious presence on stage, shrouded in light and smoke.
After a few songs, Szjerdene took a break – likely to rest her vocal chords after such a marvelous performance. During the next segment, Bonobo was able to truly show off his mastery of building energy up and transitioning between different songs. The transitions were just about perfect; it was obvious that the order of songs was carefully considered, and they were performed with expert precision. The impeccable execution of these transitions became the true highlight of the show. In some instances, these transitions should have been jarring, but they were superbly timed. The crowd responded well, of course, and by the middle of the show, they were moving around much more than before.
With each seamless transition, the crowd hyped up more and more. The cheers and shouts grew louder, and many people raised their glasses high into the air. It was interesting to observe who got excited for each new song, as it seemed that everyone in the crowd had favorites by Bonobo. His immense library of released music did not allow for nearly enough of his songs to be performed, even within the nearly 2 hours they played, but it was clear that the crowd was having a great time throughout.
All around, people were dancing or enjoying the music in their own ways. Some were standing as still as possible, truly enchanted by the show and the energy surrounding them. Some were standing or swaying with their eyes closed, absorbing the music itself, perhaps further immersing themselves within the energy of the room. Others still were dancing with as much vigor as their space allowed – even in such close quarters with other concert-goers, many found ways to show off their best dance moves.
It is prudent to mention how much the light show amplified the music as well. While the music, the musicians, Bonobo’s DJ skills, and Szjerdene’s singing and dancing all made for a wonderful experience, they were all enhanced by the streams of light and smoke floating and shooting around them. At one point, it even seemed as if Simon was going to be teleported onto the Enterprise. While the light show would certainly not be ideal for those who may have light sensitivity, for those who were able to witness it, it was an almost-transcendental experience. It helped to energize the crowd and augment those incredible transitions between songs.
While Simon Green did not speak much at all during the show, he did mention how this was his first time visiting Phoenix after over 15 years of making music and touring as Bonobo. He also made sure to introduce everyone in the band, which was an admirable quality. They truly helped to make his music something else entirely when heard live, as people who are fans of his recorded music may have noticed. The live instruments and vocals were wonderful touches, and Simon himself even picked up an electric guitar during a few moments of the show. There was even a drum solo, and at one point, the concert felt like a fantastic heavy metal show. This was certainly not the average DJ show, and Simon/Bonobo is definitely not the average DJ. All in all, Bonobo live was such an intense, interesting, unique, and diverse experience, much like his music.
This tour was to celebrate Bonobo’s new album, Migration, which came out in January of this year. Next up on Bonobo’s tour, they are stopping by Tucson and then moving on to several locations in Texas before making a final US stop in Florida. From there, Simon and the band will move on to visiting several countries in Europe before heading over to Singapore. The last legs of the tour include Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan. Next year, they will return home to London and perform a few shows there, once this epic world tour has come to an end.
If anyone is going to be in an area close to one of these upcoming shows, they are highly encouraged to attend, even if they aren’t very familiar with Bonobo’s music. This show was an experience like no other, making it an entirely enjoyable experience. The nearly 2 hours of continuous, non-stop music was absolutely impressive. Their stamina, as well as their devotion to their music and the crowd, was nearly unparalleled. Seeing Bonobo live was such a rare treat to be cherished, and Phoenix and The Van Buren hope they will be back again someday soon.
Featured photo (top) by Neil Krug