LIVE REVIEW: GoGo Penguin, Daudi Matsiko @ Sage Gateshead (18.02.16) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: GoGo Penguin by Arlen Connelly

GoGo Penguin are incredible. More on that later. The evening began with the audience being drawn into the chilled and reflective vibe of Daudi Matsiko who, while eminently ‘huggable’ (his words) and humourous, sang beautifully constructed songs aided by an interesting extension to his guitar that seemed to allow for echo effects and loops I had personally never seen before.  Sad songs sung happily, schadenfreudic folk.  Magic, the perfect start.

Made up of Rob Tuner on drums, Chris Illingworth on piano and Nick Blacka on double bass GoGo Penguin are a classic jazz trio in terms of line-up, in terms of sound they have captured the essence of the jazz trio and brought it into the contemporary without losing any of its purity. They manage to satisfy the palate of the most ardent jazz fan (me), but also open minded techno or dubstep fans (not me). Whatever your musical leanings, the seamless coherence between band members on stage was infallibly trancelike with barely a nod between them eliciting dramatic transitions between loud and soft.  Playing tracks from their previous albums Fanfares and Mercury Prize winning v2.0, and from their latest album Man Made Object, their first on the Blue Note label, they brought power and tranquillity to a packed out Hall Two.

Some bands try to be cool, some succeed, GoGo Penguin just ‘be’ cool

It amazes me how attention can be held with only three instruments (or two or one for that matter) especially without vocals, but excitement was maintained throughout partly using dynamics, but mainly with astonishing musicianship and wonderfully crafted pieces.  They didn’t even need to make much use of GoGo gadgets, with echo effects and loops kept to the absolute minimum, only really taking a major role in their last number Protest.  It is unusual for the double bass to be the lead instrument, but in the Penguin’s case Nick Blacka was certainly the main man.  His finger speed had the ladies swooning and everybody with mouths agape; the force is strong with this one, however each member proved their mettle.

It is difficult to find anything to criticize about their show, it really was completely enjoyable, but as a reviewer it is my duty to nit-pick.  So if I had one doubt, it would be whether or not there had been any improvisation.  The fact I am not sure either suggests that there was, and it was so expertly executed that I wasn’t aware, in which case, hats off, or that there wasn’t any, in which case, no problem, but it adds a layer of personality if the audience feel the band are introducing that element of risk to the gig.  At least, it’s what a jazz audience might expect, but such is their appeal the audience was entirely eclectic, including the woman behind me who decided to noisily open a packet of biscuits during a tender section of Daudi’s set.

The heartily requested encore was indicative of the smashing success this visit to Tyneside was, and I really hope to see GoGo Penguin ComeCome back as soon as possible as I can only see them going from strength to strength.

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