Live Review: Thundercat @ KoKo

  • Words: Woody Anderson

The sold out Thundercat and The Internet double-bill at Koko was put in jeopardy due to the tragic events that took place in Paris. The Internet were forced to make a very tough decision, resulting in the postponement of their European tour until March 2016, and to our dismay, pulling out of this eagerly anticipated show.

However, coming to the rescue was the intergalactic psychedelic funk General himself: Thunder, Thunder, Thunder, Thundercat! In the style of a true showman, Thundercat (aka Stephen Bruner) took to the stage to headline with the added support of Little Simz. The show must go on!

Thundercat has had quite a year, from releasing his biggest tune to date Them Changes on Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label to playing on, in my humble opinion, the two best albums of the year: Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp Like a Butterfly, where he’s been credited as being at the “Creative Epicentre” of the album by Rolling Stone, and Kamasi Washington’s The Epic album, which is hands down the best jazz album of the year. I was fortunate enough to see Kamasi at his debut UK gig at the Barbican a few weeks ago accompanied by Thundercat’s brother Ronald Bruner on drums. Come to think of it, Thundercat comes from a very talented musical family with his other brother Jameel Bruner playing keys for The Internet and his father, a legendary drummer who has played with the likes of Diana Ross and The Temptations. I digress…

The 1400 capacity venue wasn’t quite at capacity, but Thundercat’s unique blend of modern funk filled the room and flowed from the speakers, hypnotising the crowd with the aural pleasure that he’s known for. Taking to the stage with his double-neck guitar and bass he wasn’t dressed in his usual Native American inspired outfits, but had gone for more of an escaped mental patient look in his somewhat orthopedic looking slippers, black MC Hammer pants, a red scarf and an unkempt afro.

The three-piece, made up of Justin Brown on drums and Dennis Hamm on keys, got straight into the groove with Hard Times followed by Song for the Dead which was particularly poignant considering current times. Evidently deeply moved by the events in Paris Thundercat created a track in memory of those who lost their lives, simply called Paris.

The liquid funk dropped with Them Changes, which is the new single from his latest 6 track EP/LP (there’s still a bit of confusion as to whether it’s an EP or LP), but more music is to follow early next year. Lotus’ and the Jondy was a crowd pleaser whilst Daylight was smashed out at high tempo. Complexion, from Kendrick Lamar’s album, was written by Thundercat and for this performance Little Simz returned to the stage to cover vocals. Meanwhile Seasons saw the band jamming tighter, harder and faster with some familiar sounds as the crowd were pulled deeper and deeper into the mesmerising jazz funk blender. There were a few ohhh’s and ahhh’s from Thundercat alongside his unique infectious laughter and some ramblings about being drunk and not really missing The Internet in their absence.

Taken from his first album, The Golden Age of Apocalypse was tight as ever, with the band finishing their encore with the heavenly jam Oh Sheit, it’s X which truly had the whole place heads-down grooving. Everyone left smiling and with a little strut in their step. My only criticism? I think on such a big stage some visuals wouldn’t have gone amiss, and I’m sure he could come up with something amazing to take us on a visual journey as his music does so well.

Thundercat is going places – there’s no doubt he’s a great musician. He’s had a great year, and with a guest list including R-Patz, FKA Twigs, Emilie Sande and Laura Mvula, I just hope he doesn’t go all Pharrell on us and end up on The Voice…