Review by Hayley Clark with Photography by Cath Dupuy

To say American Jazz Sweethearts Snarky Puppy playing London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall was a little magical is probably the understatement of the year. Having come a long way since Bill Laurence and Michael League formed the across the border alliance in a queue for a Jamiroqui workshop in Camden many years back, the funk and talent oozed from the stage within it’s latest line-up which is also being recorded live tonight.

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However, not only is tonight’s show being recorded for distribution, the technology the band have used brings it to the audience just minutes after the show, a hardcopy of crystal clear audio to cherish and a gigantic step at stomping out bootleggers. When you can go to a gig and walk home with the audio in your hand before you leave… a truly epic move within the industry.

The Snarky umbrella has propelled artists in the past the phenomenal Cory Henry,  Taron Lockett and Terrace Martin all original members. The screens projected adverts for the Miami ‘GroundUP’, curated by the band this three day festival is going to be a funky one.

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Opening up the seated venue apart from the floor stalls that had been transformed into a standing area, Keita Ogawa got the crowd moving accompanied by a singer and guitarist. The predatory percussionist set his eyes on his prey and took the audience down a funk masterclass, middle aged men stamped their feet on the floor and waving one hand in the air as the music takes over and commands them to dance.

With latest offering ‘Immigrance’ out, it reflects a more mature sound for the band, tonight was the perfect showcase to introduce the audience to some of the hidden gems within as the opening chords of ‘Even Us’ projected through the Kensington landmark. A wave crashed around the audience as Michael started off on guitar, solely lit by a spotlight before introducing tonight’s twelve-piece ensemble to whoops and claps from the mixture of ages and backgrounds here tonight.

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With a dimly lit stage, there was no need for fancy graphics, light-shows or dancers as the music was centre stage. With each performance this ensemble showed off their capabilities mesmerising the audience and transfixing them with the sweet sounds brimming on the stage. Whilst Immigrance as an album is a little slower than some of the collectives earlier material the flowing melodies and strong beats built up a fire in your imagination.

Highlight of the night for me was hands down Texas’ finest Shawn Martin’s rendition on ‘Sleeper’ accompanying his chaotic keyboard melodies with the use of a talk box the audience left mouths ajar smiling at the grooves beaming through the venue. As the beat built up the chords captivated your senses and your feet started tapping, as hard as the audience tried you couldn’t sit still.

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Michael League requested the crowd’s participation in a three and four clap off which when blended together fused the Latinesque beat for ‘Xavi’, rolling this out for the better part of ten minutes the willing participants cheered loudly as they discovered the fusion they had made.

With looping sounds and creative tangents throughout the night, it’s clear to see Snarky Puppy are as tight as ever, joking with the audience Michael acknowledged “We know you came here for certain tracks to be played but we thought we’d strip back to play some of the new album instead tonight, we hope you still enjoyed it though.”

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After exiting and coming back to the raise roof of the Albert Hall it was time to take it up a notch and back to 2014 sending the crowd wild as the enigmatic sounds of ‘Showfukan’ graced the stage, a perfect funk sound for a perfect funk night.

With curating their own festival in 2020, it’s pretty hard to think what could be next for these talented guys, they are going from strength to strength. Tonight the lovable band deliver and the audience lap up every little thing they do with gusto and admiration.

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