Entering the Jericho Tavern for the SK Shlomo gig was a bit like entering a secret society. The upstairs venue didn't open until the dot of 8pm - the show's start time - so as I sipped cider in the downstairs bar I wondered what kind of people went to see a world-renowned beat boxer (Shlomo) turned unheard-of singer-songwriter (SK). Was it the two bros tucking into burgers, the sophisticated older couple and friend, the preppy academics, or the mum, dad and teenage sons?
All of the of the above, as it turns out: as the upstairs opened, all these disparate groups and individuals filed in, glancing around to see who else was here to witness this musical shape shift.
Uniquely, the gig started with a video of SK's departure from the past and path to this album. It struck me that we rarely question why artists make albums, perhaps it seems rude... like asking someone why they had baby. And perhaps we assume we know the answer - vanity tells them they can create something awesome (much the same reason we have babies to be honest!) SK's motivation, as shown in the film, was different and illuminating - having worked with Bjork, he saw the freedom of her creativity which stimulated his transition from beat boxer to songwriter. However his creative process was marred, possibly even defined by, a period of deep depression.
All this meant that, when he jumped on stage, the audience was alongside him, they saw where he'd been in order to perform these songs. It was a powerful moment, but one that could have easily been transformed to pity if the gig failed to live up to expectations.
Fortunately, SK didn't fail to deliver- he belted out the tracks with all the heart of someone performing at
His other stroke of genius was involving the audience, by sampling us on the loop machine as a whole as well as individual audience members he created amazing musical patterns. By the end I had a vision of watching an artist joining seemingly unconnected brush strokes until suddenly a face appears. The process was fascinating to watch and, unlike a larger gig, we were privileged to be able to see every note struck and every distortion applied. Stand out tracks were 'Look Away' (about facing demons head on) and 'Heartbeat' (about the tragedy of losing a child).
Overall the gig communicated the intense vulnerability but also freedom that comes from following your own path. I look forward to hearing more from SK Shlomo's new found voice.