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It’s notoriously difficult to get the entire Sydney Opera House concert hall up and dancing. Yet, making his Opera House debut following an appearance at Falls Festival, Simon Green (aka Bonobo) made it seem effortless, as he toyed with the flexibility of electronic music performance in what’s typically a rather inflexible venue.
It was only a few months ago that the 37-year-old Briton asserted via Twitter that, “There is no such thing as a ‘live DJ set’,” only to be questioned by confused fans. Does he just press play and let the computers do the work for him then? Is he really just faking it? Guiding his roster of supporting musicians like some kind of electro-conductor, Green showed the almost over-excited Sydney crowd just what he meant, and just how much he truly values his art.
Drawing mainly from 2013's runaway success The North Borders, as well as 2010's stunning release Black Sands, Bonobo took tracks like Cirrus, El Toro, Emkay and Sapphire, and welded them together into a rewarding multi-hybrid of dance-club, jazz lounge and downtempo crypt. Unexpected drops, a ridiculously impressive drum solo from Jack Baker and some perfectly extended grooves gave rise to multiple well-deserved standing ovations.
At times the stage was crowded with a string quartet, small horn and woodwind sections, multiple stray synthesisers, a guitarist, a percussionist and, of course, Green himself and the stunning vocal talents of Szjerdene. The sound was immense and cohesive, yet when Green found himself momentarily alone, hitting sample pads and twisting knobs, the effect was equally captivating.
Bonobo’s performances aren’t ‘live DJ sets’ per se. They rely heavily on banks of samples and computer-based triggers. Green and his talented friends know this, yet the fact that his sound is equally as invigorating and dynamic when it’s solely him on stage is a reminder that he could probably just being playing everything himself.
As someone who has come to understand electronic music so well, Green commands his band in order to give his music that contagious communal liveness. And his solitary time on stage proved that he is the central mastermind, moulding and reshaping the sounds he has already created, giving them a renewed focus, cohesion and potency.