Multiple ThunderCats lie on a large sheet against Albert Hall’s backdrop, making no mistake of the artist’s identity. This Methodist hall-turned -concert venue provides a uniquely expansive yet intimate atmosphere – a strange dichotomy that’s very much reflective of the night.
Louis Cole provides an understated yet energetic opening set. Although performing as a solo artist, he’s accompanied by his second project KNOWER band mate, Genevieve Artadi and two others, all having met in L.A. Cole, Artadi and their fellow musicians demonstrate showmanship and technical skill, with their bassist pulling entertaining facial expressions throughout and the keyboardist evidently immersed in musical euphoria.
Cole exhibits his ability to drum and sing simultaneously, his kitsch pop-electronica combined with tongue-and-cheek lyrics awakening the crowd. ‘Blimp’ and ‘Thinking’ best relay this, the former revolving around airships and the latter portraying a cynical yet adorable approach to romance (‘I’ve been thinking about you, sometimes/A little’). Artadi also provides a spectacle, her unfailing spirit seen by continuously bouncing around the stage whilst wailing into a microphone. At one point, all four alternately jut their hands sideways, giving The Bangles a run for their money during their ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’ days. Despite the imperfect audio balance, with vocals occasionally drowned by the surrounding sound, the audience is intrigued.
Twenty minutes later, the headline ensemble emerges from the stage’s underbelly. First out are Dennis Hamm (keys), Justin Brown (drums), and Miguel Antwood Ferguson (violin), a knowing look spreading across their faces in anticipation for tonight’s performance. Last to appear is Stephen Brunner, Thundercat himself, adorned in a multi-coloured sequined jacket and basketball shorts – and accompanied by some equally ostentatious sparkly sunglasses and a bright red cap. The crowd roars with enthusiasm, increasing in volume as Brunner goes to pick up his weapon of choice: his bass.
The set commences with ‘Rabbot Ho/ Captain Stupido’, the opening tracks of Thundercat’s current touring album, Drunk. Providing eccentric and occasionally downright nonsensical lyrics with contrastingly intelligent, funk-like musicianship, it’s no surprise that NME placed Drunk on their ‘Best of 2017’ list. Brunner’s immediate sense of humour does not go amiss; “Are you all drunk? You guys are always drunk aren’t you?” he chuckles into the microphone, cleverly referencing his own album, making an in-joke to himself.
Despite Drunk’s eclectic songs, the focus of the night’s performance are the jaw-dropping (whilst perhaps slightly lengthy) instrumental interludes that are incorporated into each song. Yet this does not disappoint, the audience more than happy to oblige to the undeniable talent of Brunner and his musicians. “As a bassist, there’s no way his hands should be moving that fast,” a friend I bump into afterwards exclaims, a remark clearly adoring. The band are comfortable with each other, shooting near-telepathic looks during each transition; a particular mention must be made towards Brown, whose mind-busting drum solos leave the auditorium speechless.
A stand-out moment from Thundercat’s evening occurs during ‘Tokyo’, in which Brunner insists on performing the second verse again. “I promise everything is true,” he explains, which incurs both amusement yet horror, considering a line includes his experience about trying to “get a girl pregnant’” because he’s “just psychotic.” After closing with the popular, bass-heavy track ‘Them Changes’, the crowd scream for an encore. There’s confusion over the delay, with chatter as to whether he will reappear – but surely enough, Brunner’s back, and the cause of delay is evident; there’s a chicken drumstick in his hand.