Sold out weeks before the show, the incredible co-bill of Bonobo and DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown (aka the legendary Erykah Badu) drew a variety of music fans to the historic Warfield Theater in Downtown San Francisco. The venue, where Jerry Garcia played 125 shows between 1980 and his death in 1995, was originally built as a Vaudeville theater and still maintains the beautiful detail and tiered/balcony layout that it did in 1922 (though it has been renovated since then).
Opening the show were Los Angeles-based rock duo El Ten Eleven, whose combination of live drums, bass/guitar, and looping technology made a warm welcome for early fans. Following El Ten Eleven, and creating an unusual amount of buzz surrounding the show, was DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown. Better known as the incredibly talented R&B singer Erykah Badu, her new project presented her and DJ A-1 on stage together sampling popular dance and hip hop tunes.
Taking the stage next was Bonobo. Starting the set, they brought out the bass/sample master, Simon Green, the mastermind behind Bonobo. Joining him were a keys player, guitar player, drummer, and samples/synth. Throughout the show they would be joined by a three piece string section, horn section, woodwinds, and vocals.
Bonobo’s “We Could Forever”
On many of the songs, singer Szjerdene added her strong yet sensitive vocal styling to the performance. Unlike many bands utilizing a female vocalist, Bonobo’s Szjerdene didn’t steal the show. Not to say that she wasn’t amazing, talented, and graceful; but rather to complement her ability to mesh so well with the instrumentation, complementing rather than distracting from, fitting perfectly into the puzzle.
The music got ambient at times, which Bonobo is known for, but remained danceable throughout the show, even at calmer points. With ten people playing on stage, you’d be hard pressed to find a point where there wasn’t some kind of beat to move your body to.
Halfway through the show, Erykah Badu joined the band on stage to perform her collaboration with Green off the new album Northern Borders, “Heaven for the Sinner”. She stayed on stage to perform one more song, a Badu original track, “Bag Lady”.
The show continued with Bonobo performing some of their older tracks, including hits off of Black Sands like “We Could Forever” and “Ketto” from the Days to Come album. When the show ended, the 2,300 fans cheered the band back on stage for a two-song encore. The crowd left satisfied, and this author can say that the opportunity to catch the Bonobo live band experience was a privilege; a truly talented group of musicians playing mind-blowing, intelligent, bass driven music to feed the soul. You can download the latest Bonobo album, which came out in March of this year, on the NinjaTune label site.
Written by Meghan Bender
OurVinyl | Contributor