When a night promises the advent of a local 28-piece band’s debut gig, the only truly wise option would be to attend and be prepared to have your head thoroughly destroyed. When going to see a band containing enough members to be lawfully considered a riot, you should expect the night to be exactly that.
Starting the night off were local all-percussion band Sabar Soundsystem, with a mesmerising and effortlessly cool set. With every single musician so obviously in touch with their craft, the way they worked together in creating such inspiring percussive soundscapes seemed almost telepathic and reflexive; the sum of the whole thrums with motorik, machine-like precision. And despite the percussive nature of the band, their grasp of melody is spellbinding.
Their repertoire draws inspiration from all over the world, ranging from overtly Indian sensibilities almost humbly presented by a lone tabla player, Afro-Cuban bongo rhythms, the simultaneously Oriental and European emotive harmonies of several sets of homemade chimes, all rooted firmly to the floor by bass beats deep from the heart of Africa. They waste no time, changing the seated nature of the theatre into one great big dancefloor, something that only increases in intensity until the very end of the night. A belly dancer joins the band on stage from the audience, blurring the line between audience and band as the venue becomes an embodiment of rhythm.
Continuing the lineup are James Waring’s other large-scale and utterly mental project, Royal Gala. Vocalist Lou seems to embody the definition of ‘eccentric’ in her Dia de los Muertos face paint as she gyrates and pounces around the stage to the obscenely funky driving force of the rest of the band. Their overall sound is a hybrid clusterfuck of Funk, Jazz, Ska and Soul, with their limitless energy proving absolutely infectious as more and more people fill the aisles to dance.
Highlights of their set in particular include a sinister ska bridge reminiscent of Gustav Holst’s Mars, a song underpinned by a robotic, Kraftwerk-like voice and synthesizer noodlings, and the brass section as a whole offering their own brand of cacophonous punctuation to the set.
The main event was not far behind, with anticipation slowly building during the absolute excellence of the previous acts. Waring finally takes the stage with his immense collection of musicians christened the Invisible Orchestra.
OPening with a haunting, utterly beautiful amalgamation of Classical and Jazz, reggae star Percy Dread takes the mic to high amounts of applause and wails with supernatural passion as the walls of instrumentation reach surprising, unearthly crescendos.
This grasp on dynamics stays throughout, with each guest vocalist offering entirely new dimensions and directions to the fray. Each musician shines brightly, the double bassist in particular dominating the forefront with virtuosic soloing that was surely designed to invoke the spirit of Charles Mingus, Waring’s tight rhythm guitar leading the band into uncharted territory and lending welcome themes for the prospect of expansion via each solo that the Orchestra’s members present.
Closing the evening, local songstress Natalie Duncan enveloped the stage with her mighty soulful voice, the band rising yet again to a massive climax the likes of which the Nottingham scene may never have seen before. No person attending this wonderful event left unchanged, and I am certain that there will only be even greater things to come from this absolute powerhouse of a band.
Invisible Orchestra, Royal Gala and Sabar Soundsystem performed at Nottingham Arts Theatre on Saturday 27 October 2012.