Credit- Gavin Slater
DO you ever wonder what it would’ve been like to see a genuine pyschedelic pioneer at the peak of their powers? Think Zappa at his most gloriously deranged, Captain Beefheart in the Safe As Milk era or Funkadelic melding rock and funk together with unprecedented results on Maggot Brain. To have had the privilege to gaze upon such a set would be to view a performance that was so unfettered by any other contemporary figure and rather saw those artists execute their vision with impeccable precision and with no compromises made for the benefit of being more palatable to the untrained ear.
Whilst we’ll never get a chance to hear any of those experimental forebearers warping the audience’s perceptions with each and every note or moment of avant-garde surrealism, our generation can take pride in the fact that we have the chance to watch Thundercat at the peak of his powers.
Once wrongly viewed as something of an anomaly that would never turn his esoteric bass-driven R&B sound into a commercial success or merely an affiliate of Flying Lotus in the manner that many Brainfeeder affiliates have been maligned, the reaction that greets the man lesser known as Stephen Bruner as he descends the stage in a garish bedazzled jacket and shorts combo would suggest that this perception has been widely dispelled.
Enquiring if the audience are ready to venture down a ‘Rabbit Ho’, the gig gets underway with the aforementioned opening number from latest album Drunk before the absurdity of ‘Captain Stupido’ contributes to the sensation of being ushered into a parallel dimension that’s devised in his mind.
Although the sound is initially muddied in a manner that would suggest that the venue’s sound system literally cannot keep up with the exploratory interplay of the band, these problems are soon rectified as they make it towards the main body of the set.
Instantaneously inciting a massive response from the crowd, Bruner and co masterfully align the funk-laden sound of ‘Bus In These Streets’ with a healthy dose of ‘These Walls’ from Kendrick Lamar’s magnum opus. A collaboration that aided in cementing Thundercat’s position on the world stage, this brief yet rewarding excerpt from one of the 21st century’s most lauded albums feels like a nod of recognition towards the fact that his playing on the album acted as a gateway to many delving into his own back catalogue.
A track that has became a staple of his live set, the instantly recognisable chorus of Tron Song bridges the gap between Drunk and his breakthrough LP Apocalypse in momentous fashion.
Another one of the enduring standouts from his 2013 LP, ‘Heartbreaks + Setbacks’ provides a fleeting moment of clarity and emotional sincerity amid the torrents of jazzy auditory workouts that bookend most of the tracks that are delivered.
Rendered in an unpredictable air of mystery in which it becomes clear that all four men on stage are capable of making alterations and deviating from a song’s normal parameters with relative ease, Thundercat treats fans to a brief interlude of material culled from his countless collaborations with Flying Lotus. Delivering Mmmhmm (which comes complete with a brief rendition of Kendrick Lamar’s Complexion (A Zulu Love), things soon get all the more frenetic and disconcerting as the beguiling sonics of ‘Descent Into Madness’ from Flylo’s You’re Dead! are reimagined before our eyes.
One of the more comical and aloof numbers on his latest LP, the anecdotal ‘Tokyo’ proves that Bruner’s consummate musicianship doesn’t hold any bearing on whether he takes himself too seriously whilst the trippy P-funk ode to video-game induced solitude known as ‘Friend Zone’ hits with even more authority when brought to life. Bringing the energy to an exaltant high that mirrors the magnitude of the experience he details in its lyrics, ‘Oh Sheit It’s X‘ arrives and ensures that everyone in the ABC is compelled to abandon any preconceived notions of stoic apprecation and move.
After a fleeting moment off the stage, Bruner and band soon return to the stage and the incorrigble grooves of ‘Them Changes’ soon engulfs the room. Concluding with the acid jazz hysteria of ‘Lotus And The Jondy’ (which features a subtle but no less heartfelt tribute to the late Austin Peralta) and ‘DUI’, we are abruptly removed from the daring and uncertain world that is summoned on the fretboard of his bass and plumped back into a reality that seems far less vivid.
Unencumbered with trying to emulate anyone else or haphazardly cram himself into some niche genre for the sake of being easily discovered, his return to Glasgow emphasised the fact that Stephen Bruner is an artist in the truest sense of the word and watching him bring the music that restlessly resides in his heart, mind and calloused fingers to life is nothing short of a joyous experience.