Bill Laurance At The Sugar Club – Review
London pianist Bill Laurance has spent the last year or so proving not only to be the virtuoso behind the keys with progressive hiphop fusion giants Snarky Puppy, but also as a rather formidable composer. Now on his third album, the newest Aftersun is perhaps his best work yet. After a hugely successful show this time last year, Laurance now returns to what he calls one of his favourite venues, The Sugar Club.
Tunes from Laurance’s latest offering feature heavily in the first half of the show, with the emphasis on modulated grooves and beats that are executed to perfection by his new band, featuring a rather monstrous rhythm section. Laurance praises the Irish crowds for their impossible levels of enthusiasm, and they respond in kind. Screams and cheers of more than impressed punters are almost louder than the band, which only adds to the amazing atmosphere in the packed out venue. The band raise the roof with ‘Swag Times’, the synth jam from his first album, Flint. An outrageous drum solo before an even more explosive synth section sets the place alight.
The classical nature of Laurance’s background is more evident in tunes like ‘Neverending City’, with beautiful melodies and countermelodies weaving in and out of focus like a hazy dream. All this is backed up of course by the insanely talented band, who add irresistible grooves and feel to every track without fault. At this point the audience are lapping up everything the man can throw at them, and he loves it. A brash smile to the crowd precedes a mind blowing organ solo that everyone buzzes off to no end.
After a short intermission, the band return for the final few tunes and thank the crowd again for being so wonderful. He seems totally genuine when he says how much it means for him to play for punters like this. Always the humblest of people, he wastes no time in taking things up a peg in what results in the set highlight. ‘The Pines’ from the new album is an immense track. Starting laid back and swinging, it quickly becomes one of the most intense and hard hitting tracks you could imagine. Drums and bass frantically and passionately throw riffs back and forth, as if they were having an actual conversation. Laurance acts like a moderator here, controlling the madness with his pristine touch while the others go nuts. Ending with an entirely improvised switch in time feel, the track raises the crowd to their feet in awe of what they have just witnessed. This type of music has so much to say, it really is rather incredible. The emotion and feel here is incomparable to most other art forms.
Finishing off with the classic ‘Money In The Desert’, the congregation give it up for one more hurrah. The band make sure to finish on a flourish, with Laurance’s epic composition shaking the place up before they leave. With that, the band disappear and everyone is left in a state of joyful excitement, and perhaps even confusion over what they had just witnessed.
Laurance by now has absolutely proven himself as more than the technical wiz of Snarky Puppy. He is quickly becoming a giant of the composing world, and we’re so lucky he likes us enough to play here every year. After gigs like this, it’s no wonder Dublin is becoming a bit of a hot spot for Neo-Soul.