The Red Bull Music Academy has a storied history, and the statistics surrounding it speak for themselves – over 1,500 musicians and innovators in the industry have passed through its doors to provide lectures, shows and workshops for music fans, and with the institution reaching its 18th birthday this year, established names as diverse as Giorgio Moroder, Mark Ronson, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Madlib have rubbed shoulders with forward thinking producers such as Flying Lotus and Hudson Mohawke in international cities such as Cape Town, Barcelona and Berlin.
Inside the colourful backdrop of Sefton Park’s Palm House, Jamie Woon, SG Lewis and Suede Brown all proved themselves as the perfect performers to open Liverpool’s doors to the Academy for the first time, with all three musicians delivering confident sets that provided different interpretations on the “digital soul” theme that acted as the focal point of the evening.
Musical selections from Merseyside producer and LIMF alumnus Suede Brown greeted the crowd both upon arrival and between sets, giving the beatmaker more than enough time to cement his ever growing reputation as a DJ, which he has begun to establish already through his continuing residency at 24 Kitchen Street. Brown was intelligent and consistent behind the decks, often displaying a taste for futuristic grooves that straddled genre, with sounds from the likes of Kaytranada and Sam Gellaitry simultaneously keeping the audience on their toes and urging them to move.
The anticipation for SG Lewis in the room was formidable – one crowd member declared to me that Lewis is ”our generation’s answer to Michael Jackson” as far as he was concerned – and the atmosphere was extremely excitable as Lewis eventually took to the stage. Acting as something of a homecoming gig for the former University of Liverpool student (and curator of the evening’s line-up), what followed was a vibrant and assured show that was surprising as much as it was entertaining. Lewis sometimes resembled a one man band as he regularly switched between the guitar, keyboard and microphone to perform crowd pleasers such as “Holding Back” and “Warm”, but the possible highlight of the set was when New York rapper Bishop Nehru jumped on stage to perform the collaborative track “Gone”, rounding off a performance that pointed towards a bright future for the young producer.
Providing a welcome gear change to proceedings was Jamie Woon, who provided a perky and thoughtful contribution to the Palm House’s party ambience. Accompanied by a small band that featured two jovial backing singers and a drummer who looked suspiciously like Four Tet, Woon mainly drew from his Mercury nominated second album Making Time to great effect, with tracks such as “Sharpness”, “Message” and “Thunder” filling the room with their gravitas. On record Woon often sounds soulful and considered, but what was most impressive about this show was his willingness to experiment and improvise with his band live, resulting in his songs appearing in entirely different guises; “Night Air” transformed into an funky jam session towards its ending, while “Lady Luck” emerged as a muscular electronic coda to “Celebration”, steering the evening towards a positive, and definitely soulful conclusion.
Picture credit: http://uktour.redbullmusicacademy.com/events/digital-soul-boys