Sessions – Saturday 26th January – Adam Page and Shaolin Afronauts

548727_493225024027135_138762379_n Adam-Page 1Last Saturday evening was a kind of an ‘Adam Page Appreciation Night’ with the man doing a solo show at 6.30pm and then joining Ross Mchenry and the rest of the Shaolin Afronauts at 9.30pm for what proved to be a rollicking good night of very modern music.

Utilising his looping pedals, including his favourite, the ‘big muff’, Page began in fine form with an inspirational jam that not only entertained but created its own form of wonder for audience members (especially those new to Page’s techniques) as a veritable orchestra of percussion and wind grabbed hold of the stage courtesy of just one man and a few white boxes nailed to the floor. It is hard to imagine what some great composer of the past would make of such technology (or indeed if it would have made their works any better for having it) but it is an amazing thing to watch and hear the sounds develop.

His work on the Southern Cross Flute – two flutes in one, the left one sounding very like a traditional South American pan flute – was also very innovative and rewarding, his Les Mis tribute good fun and while his antics and improvisation provides the lights guy with the ultimate headache, his range of styles never makes it boring.

If criticism can be made, it is that the cornucopia of audible opportunities available to such a master of the loop is often a drag on the overall performance. His improv work with the names of a couple of audience members and the disco / dub step / slide guitar combo may have its personal challenges but a more refined and formulated approach (even if acted out as on the spot creations) is likely to produce a more even and impressive result for audience members.

The same issue cannot be raised with the Shaolin Afronauts who for all the licence they give their soloists are the epitome of a tight outfit. Mind you at eleven players strong one can hardly handle people going off in all directions with musical thought bubbles of their own. With McHenry dressed as a cross between Tutankhamun and Audrey Hepburn and Page leading the horns looking like Friar Tuck, the Afronauts delivered their high powered, surging and pulsating African / Calypso rhythms that then sometimes pleasurably drifted off into the cosmic.

What made the whole night even more intriguing was that at times the quantity of sounds via the various players and instruments seemed the opposite of Page’s solo approach of three hours earlier. Not that it stopped him showing off his full array of weaponry, all played with great gusto, including his favoured saxophone, so large it reminded one of a domestic vacuum cleaner held upside down.

Again, if criticism is to be made it is that the mixing, especially in the first half, had the guitar and piano overwhelming some fierce activity on the horns. But fortunately, by one means or another, that all seemed to find a better balance as the 90 minutes progressed.

Buying their latest album, Quest Under Capricorn, will round off a great night and impress upon you what an accomplished internationally accredited outfit the Afronauts are.

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