Sometimes reviewing an event is like trying to describe a dream upon waking. Some details are clear in retrospect but others get lost in the haze of post-experience. During Adrian Sherwood’s set last night the only two words I could think to describe the experience was “fuck yes”. My editor had different ideas though, he wanted me to describe what all the people were wearing and how many pints the support act drank onstage. Sure, journalism is more than a two word description of an event, but nobody has ever mistaken me for a journalist before. In the tradition of music journalists from the dawn of music writing I shall attempt to paint you a picture of last nights events.
To say I’d been looking forward to Adrian Sherwood’s set would be a sight understatement, and despite chatting with him prior to his tour I went in not really knowing what to expect. Arriving midway through New War’s suitably hypnotic support set there was maybe thirty people in the room. Thankfully the room filled up somewhat for Sherwood, but word was that maybe 140 showed up to see one of the best active dub producers around today, which I find pretty disappointing. Booking dance oriented acts in rock venues is always a strange thing, add to that the venue’s weekday 11pm sound curfew makes it even more baffling. Don’t get me wrong, I dearly appreciated the opportunity to experience Sherwood in a live setting, but I couldn’t help but think of “what ifs”. Through experience I’ve also realised that if I’m excited about something then it’s bad news for the promoter. Luckily Sherwood was here to play several festival shows, this being the bonus for those of us who didn’t make it to WOMAD or Golden Plains.
So, shut up already and tell us what it was like. Ok fine. For 90+ minutes Sherwood took the audience on an euphoric journey through the depths of his musical output over the last 35 or so years. Mixing styles and formats, Sherwood combined live dub versions, played off a multitrack unit with an analogue desk, with a pair of CDJ’s, some pads loaded with samples and a suitable amount of effects. In true soundman style, Sherwood delighted us with a plethora of unreleased versions and cuts, many with long-time collaborator Lee “Scratch” Perry. Never sitting in a style for too long, Sherwood moved through a range of bass heavy tunes, morphing and shaping them live in a way that only dub can do. Despite the smallish crowd the energy up the front was high, there were wide grins galore and Sherwood seemed to be taken by the response. A short encore finished up with the Junior Byles classic Fade Away, but the sound curfew prevented us from getting a version workout of Sherwood’s own versions of that tune.
After the show Adrian said he could have kept playing for hours but due to restrictions he had to finish up, again making me think “what if?” While the sound was decent, the whole experience could have been elevated even more had the show been at a club rather than a rock venue. Don’t get me wrong, it was an absolutely remarkable evening and I very much enjoyed myself. I’m very grateful to have been able to experience Sherwood’s set and I definitely wasn’t disappointed. I only hope that one day to see him presented in a space that would truly do justice to the sounds and experience.