Photography: Glyn Akroyd

MUNGO’S HIFI

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  • The Fire Beneath The Sea
  • London Afrobeat Collective
  • Helena Johnson
FIESTA BOMBARDA @ St George’s Hall 21/2/15

Billed as their biggest event to date, FIESTA BOMBARDA – whose previous happenings at iconic sites the Palm House and the Anglican Cathedral have been draped in praise – have put together an eclectic mix of artists from Glasgow, London and Brighton to join local acts for their first foray into St George’s Hall.

Elmes and Cockerill’s 19th Century neo-classical masterpiece has, over the years, provided the setting for a parade of the highs and lows of city life, from the grandeur of innumerable concert performances to the most dismal tragedies in its courtrooms. Tonight we are hoping for something of the former.

First on is Liverpool-based chanteuse HELENA JOHNSON who, along with her slick nine-piece band, delivers a confident and varied set which moves effortlessly between RnB, Latin and jazz rhythms. Choppy guitars and punchy brass create a bright platform for Johnson’s rich vocal, which works as a perfect counterpoint to Max Gavin’s flowing rap. The small crowd enthuses, and Johnson gets the party off to a swinging start.

 

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Brighton’s EUPHONY elicit a great reaction from the growing crowd, many of whom are familiar with the band’s songs. Their mix of dub and calypso-infused dance tunes sees some energetic dance moves breaking out as lights begin to swirl around the vast hall, picking out the delicate plasterwork of the barrel-vaulted ceiling.

LONDON AFROBEAT COLLECTIVE take to the stage and slip into a prolonged instrumental groove that allows singer Funke Adeleke to showcase her joyful footwork. The crowd are straight on it too and LAC don’t let them go for a second during a set of the tightest afro, Latin, highlife and funk grooves north of the 22nd parallel. The ten-piece troupe build up the sound until, with a chop of her hands, Adeleke cuts off the top end, leaving the bass and drums to hold a rock steady beat. Dancing up to the mic, she adds a vocal injection that moves things up a gear before the guitars and brass kick back in, lifting the crowd into a frenzy.

After a short break, a scantily clad cowgirl riding a pink flamingo enters stage left. The crowd appear nonplussed at first but as she slowly begins to disrobe, ably assisted by the flamingo’s dextrous beak (think Rod Hull meets Dita Von Teese), they soon warm to the scenario. She is followed by belly, hula-hoop and flamenco dancers who perform a risqué mix of the classic and the comic. This is GYPSY DISCO and the crowd lap it up.

 

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Glasgow-based headliners MUNGO’S HIFI make a fairly low-key entrance, in keeping with their stated aim of “passion over presentation”, checking out equipment and re-arranging wires, before launching unannounced into a heavyweight set. With Tommy Danger on the decks and MC Kenny Knots on the mic, the crowd are swiftly returned to serious party mode. The bass is pounding out at a frequency that could flatten a herd of cattle and Danger’s mix of raga, dancehall and reggae lifts the crowd to another level. Knots prowls the stage, exhorting the crowd, handkerchief in hand, mopping sweat from his brow like a Baptist preacher during a fevered summer sermon. It’s a good job that the Hall’s protective floor is well sprung, it would otherwise have splintered and the crowd would have been skanking away on Milton’s exquisite tiles. Mungo end their set with mixes of Max Romeo’s Chase The Devil and Toots’ 54-46 Was My Number and the crowd are screaming their approval, at times a swirling sea of colour, at others frozen in a stroboscopic slide show.

THE FIRE BENEATH THE SEA keep the rhythms and beats alive for a crowd that looks like it could party ‘til dawn. FBTS deliver, as always, a high-energy, gleeful set, and the band look like they want to play ‘til dawn, but, mid set and to their obvious dismay, the houselights suddenly illuminate St George’s Hall and, despite the crowd baying for more, the sun sets on another memorable Fiesta.

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