Robert Glasper Experiment w/ special guests Bilal, Lalah Hathaway in London | Live Review

Bringing his much lauded blend of modern Jazz and Hip Hop back to London, the maestro known as Robert Glasper graced the stage to perform at the historical Barbican Hall on Monday, May 14. As part of the establishment’s Summer of Music festival, the musician kicked of the series in spectacular fashion, wowing the sold out audience with a string of performances of material taken from the Black Radio album amongst other gems.

With his esteemed lineup of bass guitarist Derrck Hodge, drummer Mark Colenburg and the vocoder assisted Casey Benjamin backing him, the vibes were bound to start from the performers prompt 7.45pm start. Kicking off with an ominous rendition of jazz legend John Coltranre’s “A Love Supreme” the mood was set early as Glasper’s arrangement of classics and modern cuts would keep the crowd well entertained for the entire show.

The special guest of the night, Bilal graced the stage a quarter into the show, belting out the soul stirring vocals of “Letter To Hermione” and more which appear on Glasper’s Black Radio project.

Playing the host as well as pianist, Glasper was in fine form; with his monotonous tones filled with plenty of dry humour, Robert’s love for London (“because we don’t have to learn the language”), banter with the band and musical homages to Cindy Lauper and New Kids on the Block went down well with the crowd.

Performances of material from his fifth album were exceptional. With the lighting matching the mood of each track (shades of turquoise and violet illuminating their recital of the sultry “Ah Yeah”), the show produced by Serious was visually as impressive as the live arrangements.

The surprise of the night came in the guise of special guest Lalah Hathaway, who appeared not only perform “Cherish The Day” but also “I’m Coming Back” – a favourite of many.

Glasper fans would be familiar with his fondness for performing musical interludes of other artists, and on the night dedicating a small period of the show to honouring the late Detroit producer J-Dilla Robert Glasper and co went into a number of “Dilla-Ludes,” performing classic numbers from the deceased beatsmith.

The most touching tribute came when Casey Benjamin vocoded along to their rendition of Common‘s “The Light”, which had the audience clapping along to the excellent performance. Closing the show with a thunderous “Smells Like Teen Spirit” cover and then a monumental encore performance of Herbie Hancock‘s “Butterfly,” many if not all the boxes were ticked as the pianist brought to an end a thoroughly enjoyable show.

Although album favourites such as “Afro Blue” and the title track weren’t performed (arguably out of respect for the artists who featured not being present), Robert Glasper and friends offered more than enough material to thoroughly appease the Barbican gatherers, and ensured many would attempt to make the ‘secret’ pop up show the following night.

The Robert Glasper Experiment proved on the night that Jazz is very much alive in 2012 and that its slick, hip and wit filled ensemble which was on offer will provide timeless memories for all who embraced the experience.

Buy: The Robert Glasper Experiment – Black Radio

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