tue 21/05/2024

tUnE-yArDs, Royal Festival Hall | reviews, news & interviews

tUnE-yArDs, Royal Festival Hall

tUnE-yArDs, Royal Festival Hall

Femme funkadelia rules at Women Of The World Festival

Merrill Garbus, lead singer of tUnE-yArDs

For the headliners of the Women Of The World Festival at London's Southbank Centre, there is less feisty feminism put on for show than you might expect. It's a nod to how far things have progressed - that other than the obligiatory thanksgiving for "being a loud woman on a stage of loud women plus a man who loves women", it's strength of self belief in the artists of tUnE-yArDs that lets us know what they believe in - and it's truly inspiring.

It's testament to their credence that they are this strong in themselves, their musical talents, their creativity and their confidence to be able to stand up, represent, and be so baller about it all.

They are supported by the funking fabulous Ibibio Sound Machine, an eight piece world jazz band fronted by the radiant London-born Nigerian singer Eno Williams. The booming, definite bass with bursts and trills of brass is contemporary in style, but jangles with a 1970s vibe. The percussive rhythms of traditional drums, Afro-electric guitar and ullulating all combine in a tapestry of celebratory sound and easy listening that draws the audience to their feet, making them "dance like you're in a trance".

The tUnE-yArDs audience however, need no encouragement - they are on their feet in no time, singing along and getting their groove on as the troupe of five throw themselves into their fierce, quirky, deliriously enjoyable style. Wide-eyed lead singer Merrill Garbus is deadpan in her delivery of super-speedy lyrics, poetic and musical witticisms, backed up by the rhythm and repetition of sound looping her vocals and percussion, plus the strong harmonies of her backing singers. Adorned in psychedelic threads the three come together to the front of the stage, stretching upwards in open-hearted yoga poses, then rolling down through the spine in a modern movement release technique before getting back to the business of their empowering words and zippy music.

The lyrics of Real Thing introduce the buzzing courage that resonates throughout with the upbeat words: "While you fret about pants size ten, hum-a them, rum-a them, they're chosen, girls while you worry about dress size six, they're winning the tricks those tricks those dicks… I'm the real thing!". The rousing "Hey Life" sweeps you up in the irresistable irregularity and waves of sound while catchy track "Gangsta" gets the crowd waving along. Garbus gets out her ukulele for "Esso", which combines with pinging synth that sounds like a 1980s computer game, adding further layers to the hybrid of sound and syncopation the band enjoy giving out.

The gig is a fitting centrepoint for WOTW, with this band made of women and a man who are brave without bravado, articulate without being patronising and inspirational without making a fuss about it. The splashes of eclectic sound spark with a poetry that amplifies women and their voices while giving us a mega musical treat.

The gig is a fitting centrepoint for WOTW


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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