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Once synonymous with nights frequented by, for instance, the University of Bristol bourgeoisie, The Northern Borders has seen Bonobo (né Simon Green) since become a more esteemed name. The Brightonian’s defining tour de force, the album has allowed Green to break many a boundary – whether they be artistic or quite literal, with him having travelled far and wide, from east to west and indeed north to south ‘in 30 countries across 3 continents’, in support of it – and quite rightly so. For if not necessarily revolutionary, The Northern Borders represents the sound of an artist in total control; at the peak of his powers, and prowess, in a routinely unremarkable genre that can so often fade into the quotidian background. But tonight is unlike many another night to have comprised this particular tour, and for a man to have taken his moniker from an endangered species of ape, he ain’t monkeying around much either…

Of course, it seems fitting for The Northern Borders to be recited right here in north London, with the illustrious Alexandra Palace lending added gravitas to what is already a saliently relevant evening. Within, the adjacent West Hall houses a number of eateries more commonly associated with Richfield AvenueWorthy Farm, and so on and so forth; while the ornate Palm Court creates a feeling of exoticism that is not only lacking from many another venue, but is also wholly pertinent to a not insignificant proportion of Green’s most recent oeuvre. That another zoologically monikered producer, namely Gold Panda, plays in support makes this seem all the more so also.

But while Derwin Dicker’s similarly Asiatic undertones fail to fill the overtly resonant Great Hall, with many of the aforementioned Russell Group alumni now graduated, the room duly throngs in anticipation of Green. Reaching a stature whereby you’re able to play Ally Pally is one thing, it goes without saying; getting to that at which you’re readily able to sell the place out is quite another. And from the opening seconds of Cirrus, it becomes apparent that Bonobo, abetted by string ensembles and wind instruments, not only fills the room in every possible respect, but enthrals it rather effortlessly also. There is a crystalline, limpid quality to Sapphire, and Ten Tigers too, which in an arena such as this really is no mean feat. Granted, while Green’s reputation was initially built about turntable-based proficiencies, there are moments at which it can veer into the realm of coffee tablism – whether that be Ketto, or Kong, from past escapades. But kudos is due Green not only for his hauling the sounds of the underground up into this conspicuously more mainstream consciousness, but also for his dextrous, considered recreation of these impeccably cultured tracks.

Incidentally, although they sounded that bit too insignificant onstage at, say, Glastonbury, they better suit the insides of Ally Pally – and that, in spite of the various aromas (pork, and occasional pot) and the sprawling queues for the loos that are more commonly associated with the field-based atmospheres of summer jamborees. It’s this which the venue are currently attempting to cultivate themselves, and for the most part, they’re perceptibly succeeding in doing so. Sure, there may be a few more made able, by virtue of a more recently charged smartphone, to position themselves straight in front of you, whence they proceed to film a show that’s being concurrently streamed online, and likely recorded for posterity’s sake, anyway. Regardless, the sense of occasion is as palpable as the post-garage-informed Emkay proves eminently palatable: “It’s the last show of theNorthern Borders tour, and I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather do it than here in London” Green gushes, ten thousand onlookers in complete agreement. But it’s when the focus is shifted away from him, and onto a more conventionally focal vocalist, that the show is at its very best. Because although Green foregoes the big-name collaborations favoured by several of his ostensible compeers, the likes of Cornelia, Szjerdene, Andreya Triana and Grey Reverend do him rather proud. That lattermost’s First Fires makes for a slow-burning, brooding centrepiece, the bespectacled songsmith channeling the soul and indefatigable spirit of the late Terry Callier all the while, whilst Triana’s smoky lamentations on Stay the Same seem absolutely synergic: solo, her voice mesmerises, yet her songs so rarely do; similarly, Bonobo is best when Green’s idiosyncratic soundscapes are coloured by something that bit more human.

Because at times otherwise, there is a slight dearth of personality; one that leads to a discernible lack of personal impact. Indeed, there are those at which you would readily welcome a little bit of gimmickry; the sort by which these sorts of shows are so often both measured and remembered. Moreover, for so trademarkedly prominent an instrument, Green’s bass can seem to be completely swamped on occasion. (Needless to say, it’s immensely positive to see a producer actively producing something – never is Green seen slumped over his controllers and keyboards, as can so often be the case with so many a contemporary – although his apparent musicality sets him apart once more, with his centrality to the show both aural and visible throughout.) An isolated instance’s gimmickry, as a testicular sack of balloons ruptures and drops from the rafters, consolidates a sense of celebration, before Green admits to not “know[ing] what the future holds for this project.” However, “whatever that might be”, it would do ineffably well to witness Bonobo clock up the groundbreaking, approximated 180,000 miles that they have in aid of The Northern Borders…

Photography courtesy of Jason Glass.

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