Music, Review

Review and gallery: BADBADNOTGOOD @ O2 Ritz Manchester

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By Finn Black
Photography: Charlotte Rudd

BADBADNOTGOOD returned to Manchester on Thursday, playing their first gig in the city for two years at the O2 Ritz.

Hailing from Toronto, the three-piece jazz band have worked with the likes of Tyler the Creator, Ghostface Killah, Danny Brown, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar and fellow Toronto native: Kaytrananda.

Before their set begins, their tour manager lights sticks of incense around the stage. This, combined with the smooth jazz playing over the PA, sets a unique and relaxing atmosphere. The band then enter the stage; Alex Sowinski on the drums, Chester Hansen on bass, Leland Whitty on the tenor sax, flute and guitar and recent touring addition, James Hill on the keys.

BADBADNOTGOOD are incredibly engaging, and they achieve this in a number of ways. Not only do they create the positive atmosphere, allowing their fans to enjoy themselves, but they’re genuinely cool, talented and grateful for your time.

With a style that’s heavily rooted in improvisation, it makes sense that they appear so aware of each other. There seems to be a mutual appreciation of each member in the band, doing things to make each other laugh and giving up the spotlight to each other.

They start slow with track ‘Speaking Gently’, a spaced out introduction jumping straight into that fast paced rhythm; it set the tone of the show well. After all of their improvisations and tangents the band effortlessly clicks back together. Always hitting the changes and hooks at the right time, they seem to be part of some hive mind. It’s their engagement that’s part of what makes them so entertaining. They’re aware of and engage with each other as well as the crowd. They have fun on stage; which is so rare in live music, I’ve found.

The first half of the set is all cuts from the new album IV, featuring songs like ‘Confessions pt. 1’ and ‘Cashmere’. Each song allowing different members to stand out as individual performers. Their faster numbers played with such discipline and energy, contrasting so nicely with their more soulful songs. I think soulful is a key word too, BADBADNOTGOOD‘s current sound seems as inspired by 60s psychedelic soul as much as contemporary jazz.

Around mid-way through, the set also featured two very welcome guests: supporting act Rex Orange County, to cover Glen Cambell’s ‘Wichita Lineman’. As well as crowd favourite Charlotte Day Wilson. Playing two of her previous collaborations with the band as well as her new single, ‘Doubt’, also produced by BADBADNOTGOOD.

After which, the band returned to some of their older classics such as ‘Triangle’ and ‘CS60’, followed by an encore including a very slick cover of the James Bond theme and the new album’s title track ‘IV’. These last few numbers are a real explosion of energy, Alex Sowinski really keeps a tight beat throughout. By the end, they left their fans exhausted in the best possible way. They are fun, skilled and exciting and it was one of the best gigs I’ve seen this year. If you get the chance to see BADBADNOTGOOD, do.

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