Live review: SBTRKT, Academy, Dublin
AARON JEROME AND collaborator Sampha have been building a devoted following since the release last summer of their eponymous debut album, and their reputation has been burnished by excellent sets on Other Voices and at a gig in the Workman’s Club last year. On stage, the pair perform wearing stylised tribal masks, adding a bolt of mystery and anonymity to their urban trip-hop sound.
On record, the band are slick and subtle, spare acoustic elements and echoey effects pushed and pulled by smart beats and slick riffs that sound minimal and effortlessly cool. Live, Jerome plays an acoustic drum kit, along with a slew of triggers and samples, while Sampha’s warm, almost soulful vocal lifts off above his keyboards and looped lines. Given Jerome’s production work, and the band’s penchant for remixes, it’s no surprise that the live tracks differ from the album – the live kit might lose some of the restless, sparring subtlety of the record, but it adds a straight-ahead groove to many of the tracks, lifting the sound into something substantial enough to fill bigger rooms than this.
Set openers Heatwave and Hold On are a case in point, punching well above their weight and getting an enthusiastic crowd onside in no time, and from here on in, it’s essentially the album in an hour-long set, with an occasional foray into their Step in Shadows EP. Pharaohs is greeted with roars from a crowd in the pocket of every beat, while Wildfire predictably goes down a storm.
There is the faintest feeling of anti-climax, as if the band bring the songs up but never quite set the room on fire. That said, it’s an impressive set and lapped up by a crowd who have the sense that this is one of the last times SBTRKT will be playing venues of this size. This is their last show before they hit the summer festival circuit, and while some of the tracks might need a bit more muscle on their lean frames, all the indications are that they’ll be able to step up to the plate of bigger festival stages, and deliver a heavyweight set when they come back to Ireland for this year’s Electric Picnic.