Queueing up behind what seemed like the media industry population within fixie-biking distance of Charing Cross or, alternatively, extras from the long-awaited new season of The Mighty Boosh, at the Brixton Academy it was hard to get a fix on how large the venue really was.
Being a provincial-hailing first year I’d never been before, but the huge sloping bowl of an arena inside that the audience flocked to was huge. During the stage-setting I found myself looking up at the venue constantly, convinced, despite the evidence, that something this vast had to be open-air.
The concert itself was opened with the singer-songwriter Benjamin Clementine, whose strong and versatile voice carried with nothing more than a fast accompaniment on the piano and a pretty weak microphone. The raw emotion in his songs was impressive; the powerful singing and stark lighting of red and blue on this lone figure on such a massive stage, caught the audience’s attention in a way that an opening act usually does not. After five or so of his songs we were back to waiting again.
However, as if apologising for the two and a half hours of it that we’d been doing of it at this point, Woodkid‘s entrance was exceptional, with the sudden reveal of the singer, his entourage, and what looked like the entire London Orchestra in a blaze of light and sound.
His background in animating, designing and directing (Woodkid has worked on several films and music videos with the likes of Agyness Deyn, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Sofia Coppola) was apparent in the stage design, with an incredibly strong light show that played over the audience members and stage at intervals but otherwise leaving the artists in darkness, creating waves and cages of light, bright spotlights and a huge array of laser effects to dazzle the audience.
Behind the London Orchestra was a huge projector screen on which pattern-like, almost geometric forms of nature and naturalistic things played in black and white; the swell of the sea at night, an endless zoom through a cathedral, a fractal-like tree, rippling cloth and more, all of which when paired with the sweeping orchestra and the trademark deep drums and smooth tones of Woodkid‘s voice combined for a raputre-like experience.
Of course, Woodkid soon had the crowd whipped up into a frenzy with more dancey pieces later on in the set and his two most popular tracks ‘Run Boy Run’ and of course the Assassin’s Creed soundtrack piece, ‘Iron’ only appearing when the audience were excited and impatient good and proper. Throughout the concert, Woodkid seemed genuinely ecstatic to be there; he grinned, jumped up and down and swore like a kid with their first smartphone at Christmas, repeating embarrassedly that he felt ‘so humble and happy to be [there]’ as if he couldn’t believe his luck.
This honest enthusiasm lent an energy that was the icing on the cake to the amazing songs and wonderfully presented stage. By the end of it everyone (including, I imagine, Woodkid, who cheerfully informed us that he’d been on tour for nearly three years) was exhausted and happy: the crowd having been handled perfectly with great effects and great music.