The seated art deco styled interior of the Hammersmith Apollo made for a suitably relaxed venue for experiencing the Robert Glasper Experiment. As a jazz pianist and producer, Glasper won a Grammy for best R&B album with the original Black Radio album in 2013 and has collaborations with Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and Common under his belt. Experimental performances and a playful sense of humour are what he is known for and this is what stood out.
The electronic act opened with the classic Black Radio and went on to deliver soothingly synthetic renditions of Jay-Z and Kanye’s Church in the Wild and Daft Punk’s Get Lucky separated by an epic sax solo by the multi-talented singer, saxophonist and coloured quiff-rocking Casey Benjamin. Let it Ride was performed drum and bass style and followed by an epic breakout from drummer Mark Colenburg.
Stand Alone was punctuated by an almost shamanic guitar session by bassist and Blue Note recording artist Derrick Hodge where everyone else left the stage.
R&B crooner Raheem Devaughn pounced on stage with No Worries and let us know what kind of woman he appreciates with his hit Woman, getting a verbal exchange between the men and women of the audience going.
The stand out song was Somebody Else with Emeli Sande, who came on stage to effortlessly add her haunting lyrics to an already atmospheric musical landscape. The other guest was Laura Mvula on Jill Scott’s Calls.
Glasper has a funny bravado on stage and his antics made the audience literally laugh out loud – saying he was going to sing, messing around on the piano and making a terrifically cheesy go of Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time to the begrudging compliance of his band were highlights.
Supporting act Vula Malinga equaled if not surpassed Glasper’s hilarity when telling us about her having purchased a ticket to the show, but since she drunkenly grabbed the mic at a previous Glasper show he invited her at short notice to open for him.
It was a mellow yet innovative night full of raw talent. I could have done with even more improvisation and comedic moments and as the set ended it seemed somewhat premature – perhaps Glasper joking about Common coming on stage created too much hype! (Words, pics and video: Róisín Lonergan)