Friday 6th March
The Hifi Club, Leeds
There are few clubs that can match Hifi for strength of identity, and certainly none more suitable for the extraordinary show brought to stage by Romare last week. Following up on his dj set last year, the young producer this time deployed tracks both new and old as part of a euphoric live set, perhaps the best I’ve seen (a title that I do not bestow casually).
For those who’ve heard his recent debut LP, Projections, it should come as no surprise that Romare creates in his live shows an extraordinary poignancy, just as the phenomenal album achieves in its journeying electronica, understated sampling and prominent rhythmic elements. What is surprising, however, is the ease with which tracks which are so precisely designed are able to translate in a crowded club scenario, with Romare striking a fine balance between the original compositions and a more stripped down minimal sound. Whilst the finer touches are not completely lost, any unnecessary elements which could potentially dampen the energy in such a setting are removed, allowing each timbre to stand with the space it needs in the mix. With Mount Kimbie-like attention to the gaps in between, he was able to manoeuvre breaks perfectly suited to accentuating the drops, often throwing in a distinctive Zomby airhorn with more aplomb than the man himself. Whilst gimmicky in the wrong setting, such an act is suited perfectly to such a stripped down performance, breaking through the silence to announce the arrival of the next passage.
Assisted by the exquisite Hifi sound, his presentation of each composition found a new power, not so much crafting the patterns for feet to follow so much as physically moving the enamoured crowd. The bass is bigger, the melodies clearer; it’s a demonstration in restraint which many equally esteemed producers fail to administer, avoiding the trap of over complication with apparent ease. New tracks from the LP find their feet as dance tracks in their own right, building on the foundations set by the likes of Lover Man and the soulful Work Song. This soulfulness is something that is often lost in sample banks and behind the filters in live electronic performances, but whether the result of careful EQing or the pure warmth of the samples themselves, the vocal loops and choral lowlights retain a warmth that feeds the audience beyond the presence of the dance-inducing instrumentation below.
The incorporation of loops snipped from the likes of Barbara Lynn’s I’m a Good Woman – notably the source of Motor City Drum Ensemble’s spectacular Raw Cuts #5 – and vintage French house edits nodded towards Romare’s cultured tastes, whilst the extended intro to the eventual rumble of fan favourite The Blues (It Began In Africa) built anticipation with the finesse of a seasoned selector, with each cycle of whistles and broken percussion provoking a new wave of excitement. Simply put, it’s a spectacular show, and one which the Funk SoulNation residents can take great pride in matching in their following set.
The challenge now is to fill the space before the producer’s return.
Review by Andrew Kemp
Images courtesy of Hifi Club Leeds