With warm brass and audience participation aplenty, Getintothis’ John Gibbons sees Riot Jazz put on a great show despite terrible timings.
It felt strange turning up to a gig just after 10pm and not being late, but tonight was part gig, part club night, hence the later start. It did allow a few people to wander over from other gigs though to join in the fun, which is commitment to the Liverpool Music Scene to be applauded.
They probably missed The Helena Johnson Band if they did though, who opened up proceedings just after half past ten. Some may know the LIPA student already, but it was the first time we had seen her with her full band, and what an impressive sound they made. We always gravitate towards a horn section when confronted with a large ensemble, but Helena is undoubtedly the star attraction, her politeness in between songs in stark contrast to her powerful soulful voice. It’s a very assured performance during a time the room was gradually filling up. We’re sure she left with more friends than she arrived with.
Then a DJ comes on and plays for a remarkable length of time. There are people dancing, and he’s alright, but it feels like it kills the momentum a bit. It’s billed as ‘The Afriquoi DJ + live percussion show’, but truth is, his outlandish attire aside, it isn’t a million miles away from what you expect from a warm up DJ at a gig, but for almost two hours.
Finally at around 1am Riot Jazz come onstage to a now packed downstairs area. Most in the audience will probably know them from their festival appearances, in fact we last saw them at Kendal Calling, but it’s a slightly different feel to the set tonight. Whilst their festival performances are heavier on covers, tonight they don’t play one until the encore.
It’s a difficult one for the band really. They know brass adaptations of popular songs go down best, and are what the ‘genre’ has become famous for, but they obviously want to grow as a band and showcase their own song writing too. The audience come with them anyway, dancing from the off to a set heavily featuring songs from last year’s mini album Sousamaphone.
The band are helped enormously by front man MC Chunky in ensuring the performance doesn’t get monotonous, encouraging audience participation, climbing on shoulders and even a mini stage invasion. But the musicianship within the band is phenomenal, the trombones incredibly warm in sound, the trumpets capable of incredible gymnastics, whilst the sousaphone, or as they would say ‘sousamaphone‘ driving it all on without seemingly pausing for breath.
An hour or so later they finish with covers of eighties classics Take on Me and Don’t You Want Me before, rather ahead of schedule, we are all ushered out. As a night-time experiment we’re not sure it totally worked, there wasn’t quite enough to entertain the crowds and finishing the night at least an hour and a half before the advertised time was a bit naughty. But there could be no complaints of the quality of music on offer.
Picture taken from Riot Jazz Facebook.