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December 17th, 2008 · Posted by Skuds in Music · No Comments · Music

Manu Chao and the Radio Bemba Sound System onstage in London, Dec 16th 2008

Manu Chao and the Radio Bemba Sound System onstage in London, Dec 16th 2008

Jayne and I went up to London this evening to see Manu Chao at the Forum.   This was the third time I have seen him play live and the best yet.  The first time it was a nine-piece outfit, the second time it dropped down to six people, having ditched the trumpet, accordian and second singer.  This time the trumpet was back and it was a seven-piece.

I was surprised when Jayne made a bee-line for the mosh pit as soon as we got inside.  She had seen my Radio Bemba DVD so she knew what to expect.  I don’t know if I am too old for the mosh pit, but I’m starting to think I am too old for standing two metres away from the speakers…  my ears are still ringing.  I do hope nobody tries to talk into my right ear in the morning.

The audience at the Forum, Kentish Town.  Dec 16th 2008

The audience at the Forum, Kentish Town. Dec 16th 2008

Being right at the front has its advantages though.  Twice when MC came down from the stage Jayne shook his hand.  The second time, at the end, she thanked him for the show.  How old-fashioned 🙂

It did make a change seeing it all close-up though, and I still can’t believe just how good the band is.  They start at the sort of pace other bands work up to, and the audience are punching the air and pogo-ing right from the off.  And they are tight.  The last time I saw a group of musicians who worked so well together and were obviously enjoying playing was (don’t laugh) Crowded House.

Highlights were an absolutely cracking version of Clandestino, a storming run-through of The Monkey, and when the percussionist came down to sing Sidi ‘h’ Bibi in the first encore. Also the extended acoustic guitar work in Desaparacido.  We were almost within touching distance of the guitarist so that was a particular pleasure.

The Manu Chao live performance follows a fairly set pattern of fluid songs running into each other, lots of reggae basslines and Latin American rhythms interspersed with total noise underpinned by thumping drums – the archetypal slow bit/fast bit formula, but it certainly gets a crowd going, and I’ll never tire of seeing the three front men doing the Dr Feelgood stage movements – why don’t more bands do that?

The downside of it all was the long journey home, much of it on the crappy Thameslink rolling stock that Capital First Connect use.   We eventually arrived at Skuds Towers just after one in the morning.  I’ve been having a cup of tea before turning in for the night, and hoping the ringing in my ears will subside a bit.

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