Thundercat Live At Academy 2 in Manchester review

Henry Lewis saw Thundercat shelve the horrors of Paris and bring the funk to Manchester.

Ben Smith

Last updated: 30th Nov 2015

Image: Thundercat 

The fallout from the horrors in Paris have been felt worldwide since they took place nearly two weeks ago. With talk of terrorism, bomb scares and destruction, our world is a somewhat frightening place to live in right now amidst the chaos is a music scene that, in some cases, has witnessed the terror first hand.

As gunmen let fire at random, Eagles Of Death Metal were six songs into their set at Le Bataclan, and only a few blocks away sat Thundercat.

It is for this reason that his presence was so well appreciated, the funk virtuoso had made the trip over to England despite witnessing something so terrible first-hand.

Co-headliners The Internet, unfortunately, didn't make it. An apologetic message on Twitter only a few days prior to the opening date of the tour announced that: “It was with a heavy sadness that we have watched the events unfold in Paris.”

The tweet went on to say “after much debate and stress, we have decided that in order to provide the best possible performance for you, our fans, we are going to reschedule our tour for March 2016.”

Thundercat’s message to those who had braved the weather and made it to the Academy 2 was thankful and reassuring: “It’s been a crazy few weeks but I couldn't let you guys down, thank you for coming.”

Whilst talk of Paris dominated, the gig itself was a mesmerising yet chaotic affair. The man who has collaborated with the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Pharrell Williams gave a debut to a remarkable double necked bass guitar, which he admitted himself he was still getting to grips with.

He seemed competent enough though, as he joined keyboardist Dennis Hamm and drummer Justin Brown in elongating most of the songs with virtuoso jazz funk jams.

While this worked in some parts, sometimes the meaning got lost and it was difficult to remember which song the band had started to play before they returned to it a few minutes later.

The occasional lyrics in ‘Tron’: “Don’t you worry about me, I always come back to you”, seemed the most appropriate message to come out of the jazz confusion.

This is not say all the tracks were like this, ‘Them Changes’ (latest above), taken from Thundercat’s latest release The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam, was a particular highlight.

A collaboration with Flying Lotus and Kamasi Washington, its mucky grooves and falsetto vocals had heads bobbing and shoulders swinging. A simplistic light show complimented the song nicely and seemed to take the gig out of the darkness by splashing some colour onto it.

With further messages of thanks throughout, Thundercat unsurprisingly seemed somewhat distracted, telling the crowd: “I have no idea where I am”.

With the length of some of the band’s jams, a few in the audience probably felt the same. The longing of ‘Heartbreaks and Setbacks’ was undoubtedly a highlight and had an added poignancy in light of recent events.

The song created a genuine connection between artist and audience through its desperate lyrics. It is without question that the terrorism in Paris had affected Thundercat personally. Only days after the attacks he released a short instrumental mourning those affected, a touching tribute (listen above).

The night peaked with final song ‘Oh Sheit It’s X’, a stomping synthesised funk tune. Thundercat’s joking remarking of “up next we’ve got The Internet” was difficult to read and it felt as though some hard feelings were present.

Regardless, he returned for a short encore before leaving a crowd baying for more. By momentarily shelving the horrors of Paris, Thundercat seemed able to exorcise his demons through his music, a gift the audience were immensely grateful of.

A confusing night in many ways, the clearest message of all was thus: the beauty of music will prevail despite the ugliness of the world.

Read: John Newman at Manchester Albert Hall review