Black Midi @ SAT – 28 March 2022

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The last time I saw Black Midi here in 2019, I was well prepared; their debut record Schlagenheim had been on my regular rotation for weeks in the lead-up, and I was richly rewarded with a stellar night as they tore it to pieces for 50 glorious minutes.  This time around, the show kinda crept up on me, and I haven’t given their sophomore record Cavalcade anything like the attention their records need.  Since their records are the epitome of the term “growers,” I’m not too sure what to expect.

After arriving at S.A.T. and safely traversing the first challenge, that of finding a view of the stage not blocked by an enormous concrete column, the band are introduced onstage by a pre-recorded boxing announcer.  Their entrance soundtrack pays homage to last night’s shenanigans at the Oscars; as the theme song to The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air blares out, one band member pretends to punch another.  The set starts with the band lo-key jamming to Chaka Khan’s Ain’t Nobody, before suddenly blazing into the filthy riffs of 953, the incredible opener from their debut record.  The pit explodes into life, and the touring Saxophonist thrashes like a death metaller; definitely the first time I’ve ever written that in a review!

The set walks a line between intense math-rock and jazz club improv; again, not a set of adjectives I’ve used before.  Things alternate between fast and slow, stop and start, and it soon becomes impossible to keep track of where one song ends, and another begins.  The lyrics are often somewhat indecipherable, so no tracking the songs that way either!  It’s definitely a challenge without the preparation work; I can’t help but wonder how the even less-prepared +1s in the crowd are getting on!  

As off-the-wall as it appears, there’s absolutely no doubting the musicianship involved in putting together a set like this.  As if it wasn’t impressive enough already, drummer Morgan Simpson manages to play entire sections of songs with a towel over his face!  There’s a real mastery in the timing of the stops and starts, and it’s unbelievably slick in its execution.  From clarinet jams to Spanish guitars to an enormous circle pit to lighters-in-the-air to a jam-session rendition of the Can-Can, there’s almost nowhere Black Midi don’t go in their 65-minute set.  A truly unique band, a truly unique live show, and a truly rewarding experience when you come prepared!

Set List

  1. 953
  2. Speedway
  3. Welcome to Hell
  4. Circus
  5. Dethroned
  6. Sugar/Tzu
  7. Defence
  8. Lumps
  9. Still
  10. Eat Men, Eat
  11. Chondromalacia Patella
  12. John L
  13. Slow

Review & photos – Simon Williams

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