By Rohan Jobanputra, Third Year Physics and Philosophy
The Trinity Centre is a venue that has hosted era-defining bands such as Echo and the Bunnymen and New Order. Lining up outside the former church to witness black midi’s second rescheduled performance of the day, there is a sense that greatness is once again about to grace its main hall.
Inside, the milling audience are quietened by a lighting change; as the band takes the stage, the booming voice of a boxing announcer lets us know that we are about to witness ‘the undefeated, the reigning champions, black hellfire midi.’ Guitarist Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin (famed for his dramatic frontflip at the 2019 Mercury Awards) is on hiatus from touring for mental health reasons, replaced by Seth Evans on keys and synths and Kaidi Akinnibi on saxophone – welcome additions to black midi’s live presence.
Never ones to bow to convention, the band haven’t gone for the traditional ‘drummer at the back’ arrangement on stage. Drummer Morgan Simpson is in full view of the audience, something that adds to their performance – his driving percussion cuts through the chaos of the rest of the band, bringing a semblance of order to their sound. Singer Geordie Greep stands at the centre of the stage wearing dark glasses and tells us that tonight’s performance is in support of Anthony Joshua fighting Oleksandr Usyk in London as we mosh to black midi’s prog-jazz stylings in Bristol.
The band launch into their first song ‘953’ and the crowd instantly compacts. As a wall of sound hits, we push forward into the fray: jumping and shoved around to a riff that speeds up and slows down as the band pleases. black midi are masters of manipulating an audience – it is clear that they plan on making full use of that talent tonight.
We are treated to five unreleased songs that are unmistakeably black midi, highlights of which were ‘Sugar/Tzu’, and ‘Faster Amaranta’, making ample use of Akinnibi’s ferocious talent on the saxophone and showcasing black midi’s mastery of genre-bending – spanning jazz, prog, and punk. Two mimes emerge from backstage and dance around in slow motion in front of us. The band seem to be poking fun at both their audience and critics, as the mimes feign exaggerated shock at the beautifully composed din coming from the speakers, before putting their hands up and jumping around in mock delight. We prove an audience that deserves to be mocked – really rammed home as Greep tunes his guitar and several people start dancing. black midi are perhaps an experiment – seeing what people who are ‘into music’ will mosh to. If they are, they still entertain along the way.
Tracks ‘Chondromalacia Patella’ and ‘John L’ from black midi’s recent album Cavalcade are received gleefully by the sweaty and battered audience, people even singing along to the guitar part of John L. Though I have a stitch and feel on the verge of collapse, the band’s energy keeps pulling me back in. Just before their last song, the band take their first break of the night as Greep once again reminds us that Joshua is fighting Usyk tonight and deserves our support. They launch into ‘Ducter’ and close a night of brilliant music, their high-energy never faltering.
Joshua may have lost his fight on Saturday night but had Usyk been in a black midi mosh pit instead, he would have been left as dazed and awed as the crowd that staggered out into the cold Autumn night.
Featured image: Rough Trade
Have you seen black midi live?