Talk about a man living his own music. With everystab of the kick drum or incisive hit of the keyboardMatthew Herbert’s body seemed to be utterly under thecontrol of his own music, pulled around Koko’s stageby a team of invisible puppeteers, their routineplanned in advance to the nearest beat.
And yet this blue riband act of !K7 Records,celebrating the label’s coming of age this year, wasdraped in a gold smoking jacket, twinned with blackshorts, with nothing on his feet. It was as if someonehad woken him up in the middle of the night to take anurgent phone call, whereupon he found himself onstage, blinking heavily in front of a near capacitycrowd.
Vocalist Neil Thomas followed suit, thoughhis design was a smarter black, indicating he had infact been up for some time. He sang with littlemovement but deep emotion, taking over DaniSiciliano‘s lines in the tracks from most recentalbum Scale, and when he smiled had something of acheeky Martin Freeman about him. So impassionedwere some of his vocals, albeit with subtly delivery,that Herbert’s bobbing and weaving beats retired tothe middle ground, taking with them a delicate,unobtrusive electronic clothing.
In this he was helped by a tight rhythm section,achieved through a long and gruelling recent worldtour, of which this was the last stop. The drums werebasic but oh so bouncy, given extra muscle by thefunky bass. And while Herbert may have stopped wellshort of employing chefs to cook on stage, as he didrecently at the Barbican, he took time out to samplethe crowd singing an assortment of ‘C’s, throwing itback in a live demonstration of creative sampling.
In the week his 100lbs debut album has beenre-released it seemed appropriate to have Herbert backin the electronic fold again. Snatches of the big bandremained – a sensitive muted trumpet solo here, arather more gregarious flute improvisation there – buthe was mostly content to offer his cool yet vividorchestration via the keyboards.
As Neil Thomas sang the crowd were mostlyattentive, caring not for the lack of a light show orthe relative lack of emotion on stage. The music didthe talking, and Herbert – himself only two years shyof the label in musical age, left a happy man.