Thundercat at ABC, 14/11/17

Thundercat, – aka Stephen Bruner, jazz bass aficionado and frequent Flying Lotus collaborator – is the coolest cat in the room before he’s even teased a note out of his instrument.

And what a gorgeous instrument it is: a signature Ibanez six-string in sunburst yellow, so bright that it looks as if it’s generating its own energy.

 

Clad in a shimmering sequinned bomber jacket that jostles for attention with ABC’s giant mirrorball, Bruner is instantly the centre of attention, and is pretty relaxed about it.

While this year’s Drunk LP brought Thundercat widespread acclaim, Bruner is perhaps best-known for collaborating with Kendrick Lamar on his Grammy Award-winning To Pimp A Butterfly.

He acknowledges his mainstream acceptance this evening, with a seamless integration of Kendrick’s single ‘These Walls’ early on.

But excepting this, Thundercat largely adhere to the performative norms of a jazz show for the first half of their set, with improvised instrumental solos presented as equivalent to – if not more important than – the recreation of the song as a whole.

The breakdown on ‘Captain Stupido’ is dazzling: Bruner’s fingers glide over his bass at supersonic speed while his band stay deep in the pocket.

Bruner takes care not to hog the limelight, too: his touring keyboardist and violinist both take virtuosic turns, but it’s drummer Justin Brown who shines the brightest, truly phenomenal in his versatility.

Stage chat is sporadic: there’s a no-context shout out to Cannibal Holocaust early on, and a more explicable shout-out to Herbie Hancock later, before a meditative rendition of ‘Descent Into Madness’ – a Flying Lotus track to which both Bruner and Hancock contributed.

For the second half of the show, Thundercat revert to a generic pop concert format, giving the crowd the hits and clearly enjoying doing so.

‘Drink Dat’ gets a big response, as Bruner urges the crowd to raise their glasses while feigning incredulity that a Glasgow audience could possibly be inebriated.

After a rousing one-two of ‘Friend Zone’ and ‘O Sheit It’s X’, the band re-emerge for an encore featuring the bouncy ‘Them Changes’ and the trippy funk of ‘Lotus and the Jondy’.

Brown once more lets rip on the latter, his fevered drums spiralling into the rhythmic stratosphere while the instrumentation artfully collapses around him.

Bruner croons us home with ‘DUI’ to close, a reprise of sorts from opener ‘Rabbot Ho’: this gives the set a pleasing symmetry, and reminds us that Bruner’s honeyed voice can often be unfairly overshadowed by his bass-playing.

It’s been an evening of infectious tunes and even more infectious enthusiasm – Thundercat ho!

Words: Graham Neil Gillespie

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