Following an acclaimed slot at Love Saves the Day in May this year, Canadian quartet BadBadNotGood made a much-anticipated return to Bristol, treating a packed Motion crowd to an hypnotic 90-minutes of hip hop-infused jazz.
Sold out for months and later upgraded from its original Marble Factory venue to the adjoining clubnight warehouse due to high demand, it was fair to say that excitement was high for this one. And, after a heartfelt opening salvo from support act Rex Orange County, the place was teeming with fans eager not to miss a second of the action.
A hero’s welcome followed before the band opened proceedings with a gorgeous rendition of Speaking Gently from 2016’s award-winning album, IV. Longtime collaborator Leland Whitty, now a fully-fledged member of the band, playing a majestic hand on flute and alto saxophone set the tone for what was to be a beguiling journey through the many guises of this genre-straddling fourpiece.
fan favourite Lavender saw drummer Alex Sowinski at his intricate best, peppering the band’s sludgy downtempo grooves with some delicious percussive improvisation
And, it was the band’s recent long player that was to provide the backbone to a selection of early instrumentals. The dreamy Chompy’s Paradise bringing Whitty to the fore once again as his moaning soprano saxophone lent a wistful leading line to IV’s swooning centrepiece. While fan favourite Lavender saw drummer Alex Sowinski at his intricate best, peppering the band’s sludgy downtempo grooves with some delicious percussive improvisation.
Yet, despite endless wizardry on their respective instruments throughout, as well as a solo each, moments of individual indulgence were rare. Instead what was more notable was the band’s commitment to their collective sound. Bereft of the kind of excess that often plagues groups of instrumentalists, the band played with a control and intelligence beyond their years, as much aware of each other’s playing as their own and always beholden to their collective output. A feat perhaps even more admirable given the bass-heavy leaning of the venue’s sound system.
moments of individual indulgence were rare
Nowhere else was this more evident than on jazz odyssey Confessions pt. II, which could have been muddied completely were it not for the masterful push and pull of the band’s arrangement, allowing the song to ebb and flow before eventually building to an epic crescendo.
After a flurry of instrumentals the band invited a couple of guests to the stage for a handful of collaborations as part of what is now a customary chapter in the foursome’s live sets. First up was Toronto-based singer songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Charlotte Day Wilson, whose classy vocal lent some welcome texture to proceedings. Renditions of two of her own tunes, including Doubt, released that day, were accompanied by a triumphant version of IV’s smoky, backroom classic In Your Eyes, much to delight of the now transfixed crowd.
the band invited a couple of guests to the stage for a handful of collaborations as part of what is now a customary chapter in the foursome’s live sets
The collab section was rounded off with help from warm up act Rex Orange County. The 19-year-old English singer-songwriter has made quite a name for himself recently with his 2017 lo-fi indie debut EP Apricot Princess, chronicling life and young love, however tonight was not his finest hour. Choosing to cover the late Glen Campbell’s iconic Wichita Lineman, Rex’s flat vocal lead accompanied by a less-than-inspired backing arrangement completely failed to capture the romantic melancholy of Campbell’s 1968 original. Instead the resultant rendition left a rather nauseating taste. Proof that the whole is not always better than the sum of its parts.
Proof that the whole is not always better than the sum of its parts
The four musicians finished off proceedings in playful fashion, getting the crowd to sit down before the finale of their set closer before signaling to everyone to jump up for one last get down. A fitting end to a memorable evening for all. These boys will be selling out warehouses for years to come!
Words by Joe Carter
Photo by Gianni de Fretes