From 2018. The gig turned out to be a spectacular affair. Spot lights strafed the stage as a brutal bar of horizontal glare acted as a frame behind the band. Set standouts included the pensive ‘Prayer’, rippling patterns of ‘Bardo’ during which Turner’s frantic drum ’n’ bass-like scampering reached a frenzy of engagement, the rustling atavism of ‘A Hundred Moons’, and ravey Davey ‘Reactor’ from current Blue Note album A Humdrum Star and ‘Ocean in a Drop’ from the Live at Abbey Road EP. Double bassist Nick Blacka’s matador-like machismo thrived on a compelling Miroslav Vitouš-recalling command of the instrument stripped back to an essence, Blacka opening his account at the beginning of the evening with a tender arco ostinato that seared into the arteries of the vast hall. As for Chris Illingworth on piano always an introvert, a sense of hush he swaps for the detailed sweep of release and a dream of musical escape that eclipses even what his heroes e.s.t achieved given the heights the band have now conquered in such a vast UK concert hall space that he vividly explores.
First support was provided by the head bobbing duo Sunda Arc (aka the keyboard/electronics of Nick Smart and soprano sax/bass clarinet/electronics of Jordan Smart from Mammal Hands). In main support in a second slot was assured soul singer Andreya Triana wearing a bright pink trench coat, jumpsuit and statement necklace whose set included current single ‘Woman’ and a switch on her final number to strap on a bass guitar. Kerstan Mackness, GoGo Penguin manager pictured above left, with Rob Turner, the Mancunian trio’s drummer, pictured outside the Royal Albert Hall taken post-soundcheck shortly before the jazz-electronica band’s biggest UK gig. Photo from the soundcheck above featuring GoGo Penguin. l-r Rob Turner, Nick Blacka, and Chris Illingworth: band Facebook page. Story/main pic: Stephen Graham.