Tonight Manchester welcomes SBTRKT to The Ritz, as audience and artist combined for a special peformance.
Few other artists have commanded the same respect for their debut LP as has Aaron Jerome, more popularly known as SBTRKT.
Nestled among the slew of outstanding EDM released in 2011, Jerome’s self-titled record could not be harder to classify. Shifting seamlessly between two-step, bass music, house, soul and a little dubstep proper, the album possess such unique range, yet manages to bear the SBTRKT stamp from start to finish.
One of the most important strings to Jerome’s bow is his frequent collaborator, Sampha, who forms the vocal heart of the record. Whether belting out the anthemic chorus on Something Goes Right or Pharaohs, or crooning on Hold On, his power and measure is felt throughout.
SBTRKT’s current UK tour jumps off the back of this release, just as it’s begun to enter mainstream consciousness. The current Honda campaign features Go Bang prominently, and I’m pretty sure most people get their music taste off advertising campaigns nowadays, so it’s no wonder they’re blowing up right now.
But that’s not to say that the support acts can pass without a mention. Unfortunately, I had missed Damu’s set but I did get to see the majority of brother-brother electro combo Disclosure.
Fusing disco, electronica and some straight up dance, Disclosure were an incredible act to see live. Although reasonably withdrawn behind their Macbooks and production gear, their personal presence was felt within every grooving body on the dance floor.
One standout attribute of The Ritz, and one thing that doesn’t get utilized nearly as much as it should at regular club nights, is the balcony, which allows some sanctuary from the overwhelming, sweating, writhing masses. If you feel like a breather you can make your way up to this small cool-air-pocket oasis without losing sight of the main event. Better yet, it allows you a birds’ eye view of the audience entire, elevating you to a divine presence, presiding over the euphoric sermon being delivered below.
At last, the stage is set for the twosome we’re all here to see. Draped from top to bottom, a giant translucent cloth displaying Jerome’s trademark tribal headgear’s silhouette stares out over the crowd. This almost divine presence is echoed a few seconds later as the bright red lights shift to blue, illuminating the men of the hour as the opening sequence of Heatwave lurches into life.
The mood is as electric as the music is electronic, the crowd pulsing as the waves wash over and through them. We know we’re in for something great. And then Sampha began to sing. The tentative woos became ecstatic screams. This was the opening track to end all opening tracks, and we were all there to hear it.
Sanctuary, Hold On and Living Like I Do quickly followed suit, taking the mood down to a slow skank only to build it back up to a dance workout. These boys sure know how to work a crowd. Living Like I Do, the track that first pricked many ears up back in early 2011 was a joy to hear live, but it was the double bill of Something Goes Right and Ready Set Loop that really displayed the duo’s form.
Trials Of The Past set the crowd up for Pharaohs, by far the most disco-danceable in the act’s repertoire. As Now Wave put it in their twitter updates: 'THE CROWD POPPING OFF TO PHARAOHS'. Step In Shadows offered another instrumental jam for Sampha to display his cowbell prowess, before Go Bang gave everyone a much-needed breather. By this point the entire venue had the humidity of the rainforest, everyone seemed soaked through and more people were stripping down than in the Playboy Mansion. Never Never offered the closest to a slow jam you’ll get from these boys, but even this soulful ballad had the crowd body popping along with the best.
“One more choon, one more choon”
And of course it was the club dance floor filler, Wildfire, only the man-of-the-hour Drakeremix. There was a particularly guilty pleasure in hearing Jerome over using my favourite DJ effect, ‘Beat Grid’ throughout the track, and as it drew to a close the crowd threw themselves at the stage. It couldn’t be the end, it just couldn’t be.
As the two left the stage, it certainly seemed to be.
However, the stage was quickly illuminated again as Jerome announced 'this is one of our first tracks, Rundown'.
Deep, thick waves of Future Garage bass were cast over the audience, captivating everyone it pulsed through. This was Dancestep at its best. The night drew to a close with Right Thing To Do, a slightly more chilled out accompaniment to Rundown.
As I left the Ritz I knew two things; that I had been a part of something special, something shared that unified all who had been there, and that I couldn’t wait for a chance to see these guys again.
If you ever get a chance to see SBTRKT, do whatever you need to get there.
Missed this show but want something like it? Check out Swamp81’s showcase at Factory 251 on the March 5 for more groundbreaking bass music.
Setlist (off SBTRKT LP, unless otherwise stated):-
Living Like I Do (Deluxe Edition or Living Like I Do single)
Something Goes Right
Ready Set Loop
Trials Of The Past
Step In Shadows (Step In Shadows - EP)
Wildfire Drake Remix
Rundown (Soundboy Shift/Rundown 12")
Right Thing To Do
You can read Josh's full review here.