Concert Review: Bonobo, at Forum Karlin. Does Magic Still Exist?
It is not the first time in Prague for Simon Green – better known by his stage name Bonobo – musician, DJ and producer, born in the UK, based in Los Angeles. He played back in 2018 at Forum Karlin, the same venue as last Saturday's gig, and without surprise, he delivered a joyful concert once again for everyone in the audience.
The venue, which I have personally always liked for both acoustics and organisation, appeared like a womb, prepared to welcome the audience. People arrived in fleets to reach the gig, as Bonobo has plenty of appreciation in town. Also, as people waited, there was an almost religious silence preceding the event. The atmosphere was good, energetic, but at the same time pleasant and warm.
Opening act Poté stood alone but captured the crowd
A huge ovation welcomed on stage the support act of the night, the UK artist (based in France) Poté. He stood alone on stage with electric drums and some modular synths and used a few effects for voice modulation. It was a one-man show, but it sounded like an entire orchestra. His ethereal voice combined well with the dark and intense atmosphere created by his synths.
But rhythm is what drove the audience crazy, deep house trance mixed with tribal electronic, which led people to dance and move in an obsessive way, as if we were attending a shamanic ritual. Poté was extra communicative and the audience's response was clearly appreciated by the artist. It seemed that everyone came actually to see him.
The magic still stood in the air during the break, and people seemed refreshed and delighted after Poté’s performance. Everybody was waiting for Bonobo now. And then the lights went off. A big surrealistic panorama appeared on the screen, and Bonobo came on stage, first alone, then all the other musicians arrived. I had never seen one of his gigs before, and I genuinely thought that in the end, it would be electronic music played with synths and with electronic devices.
Old and new tunes with a breath of fresh air
And it was surprising to see that Bonobo not only manages synths (mainly the Minimoog), as well as bass guitar, piano, Moog, drum pads etc., but was in fact accompanied by a whole band: keyboard, guitar, clarinet, trumpet, sax and drums. The ensemble created a dreamy and enlightened environment, where space and time became just a mere convention.
The audience looked completely absorbed in the sound; they listened without interfering. The opening song – which is also the opening track of his latest album, Fragments, which came out in January of this year – called "Polyghost", projected us into Bonobo's universe. We were all immersed in the visual, consisting of mountains and skies and seas, interminably rolling on the screen behind the band, while the audience fluctuated to the sound of synths.
The vibes kept going on well, a groovy funky drum line which made a carpet of synth-pop keyboards and droning synths. In this first part of the gig Bonobo presented some of the tracks of his latest work: "Rosewood", "Counterpart", "Shadows" and "Tides". There was also the beautiful "Surface", which belongs to the 2017 record Migrations.
To accompany the sung tracks was the beautiful voice and presence of Nicole Miglis, who appeared and disappeared from the stage whenever required, and delivered beautiful and angelical tunes, enchanting the public, which seemed to appreciate her presence.
In the following part of the exhibition, they presented some songs from Bonobo's previous records: the captivating "Cirrus", the sexy and bewitching "ATK" (probably my favourite of all the setlist), and the spirit was kept alive and warm by the passion and involvement of the all the band, which clearly influenced the people standing just a few meters away from them.
End of show solo set entranced the audience
All of a sudden, all the musicians left the stage, except for Bonobo, who then delighted the audience with a session of deep electronic/tribal/house, compelling and engaging, which degenerated into a complete madness of the audience, who danced and jumped and forgot everything but living in that moment. This is the exact moment in which I realised that yes, magic does still exist, and it is found in good sounds, good vibes and good people.
Bonobo was physically static, but his verve overwhelmed his surroundings. The last two songs of the setlist, "Age of Phase" and "Otomo", are part of his latest album, and they seem a fair enough ending to such a performance. The public was enraptured and seemed to want the night to never end.
And in fact, Bonobo with all his musicians came back on stage for the encore, performing "Stay the Same", sung by the beautiful and delicate voice of Nicole Miglis, and then they concluded with the enthralling "Kerala", leaving the public disoriented, sweaty, shocked, satisfied. It seemed the best possible end to such a night.
It's not obvious that a concert should leave such a mark in our memory, just because it's our favourite artist or because we're at the concert with people who matter to us. In the case of Bonobo, it seems almost obvious that this concert left its mark on those who attended.
26. 11. 2022
Prague (Forum Karlín)
Bambro Koyo Ganda
Age of Phase
Stay The Same
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