Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gig Review: Adrian Sherwood, Wellington, 2011

Adrian Sherwood playing live in Wellington would normally be an automatic contender for my ‘gig of the year’ shortlist. But due to a combination of factors, I really struggled to enjoy myself at Bodega last Thursday night. I’d had a helluva busy day, I was definitely suffering from a severe bout of pre-Xmas fatigue, and despite the fact that I’d been really looking forward to the night/gig for weeks, come the hour, I just wasn’t “up” for it. Rather anti-climatically, I “hit the wall” just after midnight with Sherwood little more than an hour into his set.

Sherwood himself though, to be fair, was on top form. The best illustration of his all around genius was when he relieved support DJ ‘Vital Sounds Hi Fi’ of the controls at the start of his set. It was almost as though a switch had been flicked, and (with no disrespect to Marty of ‘Vital Sounds’, who warmed up the moderately sized crowd nicely) the difference between a “guy that plays records” and a genuinely world-class sound technician/dub producer was immediately obvious.

The On-U Sound label guru’s DJ set (or at least the first 90 minutes thereof) was a mixture of old faves from the extensive On-U Sound archives and some newer material. Of the old stuff, ‘Two Thieves And A Liar’ was a definite highlight for me personally, with Sherwood taking a moment to dedicate it to all the “bankers” of the world. The track itself is over 20 years old but as a standalone piece of political (and social) commentary, it still seemed so fitting and relevant, given events across the globe in 2011.

Of the newer stuff, it was interesting to hear Sherwood’s take on Dubstep, with an industrial-strength blast of fcked up bass and wobble kicking in quite early on – which would have been all fine and good had the venue’s acoustics and sound system been up to the task, but to be completely honest neither was particularly suitable to the bass-centric demands of Sherwood’s work. The resultant distortion made for an uncomfortable few minutes whenever Sherwood applied a bass heavy Dubstep slant to his work; the sub becoming so unbearable at times I was almost praying for the top end to return, and it was certainly a relief when it did.

But ultimately Sherwood has immaculate taste, and even if the mind-warping Electro/Dubstep stuff didn’t hold much appeal, there was plenty from his back catalogue to keep me happy – the man is a master of roots reggae and to see him spin that stuff while applying a wide range of dubby FX live and in the flesh made the night worthwhile. As did the fact that I managed to catch up with a number of old friends and familiar faces in what was a much smaller crowd than I’d initially anticipated.

Overall, Sherwood did his job brilliantly and I have no issue with his performance whatsoever. It was just a pity I felt so lethargic, and my complete lack of energy resulted in me departing the venue while the gig was still in progress. I’d say “maybe next time” but I actually don’t think there will be a next time when it comes to Adrian Sherwood in New Zealand.

Sometimes, no matter how much you will yourself to enjoy something, it just doesn’t turn out the way you want it to. Last Thursday was one of those nights.