Gig review – The Cinematic Orchestra, Hammersmith Apollo, 11 November 2016

If you haven’t heard of The Cinematic Orchestra, you’ve probably heard their music.  Their song, To Build a Home has unsurprisingly appeared in countless movie adverts, etc.  ‘Unsurprisingly’, because it’s a fantastic tune, which, once heard, will stay with you forever.

I’m familiar with TCO’s 2007 album Ma Fleur, which features this great tune, but other than that I didn’t know much about the band or what to expect.

Before TCO appeared on stage at London’s Hammersmith Apollo (it’ll always be the Hammersmith Odeon in my heart!), the crowd was treated to Stephen Bruner, a.k.a. Thundercat.   I know Thundercat through his own work as well as his work with Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar.  To be honest, I prefer his collaborations than his own stuff.  However, I was deeply unimpressed with what I heard on the stage of the Apollo.  While his bass playing is virtuosic, the band (a trio additionally featuring a drummer and keyboard player) seemed over-indulgent in their playing.  This was exacerbated by what appeared to be a poor sound system.  The band was cut short after about 20 mins much to the annoyance of a lot of the crowd.  20 minutes too late in my opinion, though I’ll give Thundercat the benefit of the doubt on this occasion.

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The Cinematic Orchestra thankfully met my high expectations, despite a poor sound system (which is why I’m giving Thundercat a second chance!).  With a rhythm section including drums, percussion, bass, keyboards and guitar, complemented by a string quartet, a saxophonist and singers, who joined the band for various songs, it was clear why ‘Orchestra’ featured in the name.  Cinematic explains a lot also but the band played an eclectic set, which encompassed trip-hop, jazz and soul.

The encore had to be and was To Build a Home.  Regrettably, it was a different version than the one I’ve become used to.  Despite this, TCO delivered the goods and I’d recommend them as a class live act to go and see.

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On a final and perhaps sentimental note, after what has been a tumultuous week in world politics, with the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency, following a bitter and hate-fuelled campaign, it dawned on me during a particularly moving song the importance of individuals coming together to both create and listen to music.  So long as people continue to do this, then there will always be hope in the world.