GoGo Penguin ceremoniously opened The Liverpool International Jazz Festival at The Kazimier having made the step from Kazimier Garden to Kazimier inside.
The audience, a combination of jazz enthusiasts and Kazimier regulars, made for an interesting atmosphere. Passive aggressive throughout, eyes stared at the conversational culprits whose asinine jabber overpowered the band’s softer moments. Stares led to screams, as the committed fans adopted a fight fire with fire approach to the boisterous. Shouts of ‘Shut the fuck up’ could be heard littering some song breaks mid-set. The band remarked that the crowd was rather lively, a slight on both sides of this war of attrition.
As a whole the night was excellent, the level of skill shown by the three expert musicians was almost unrivalled by any other gig I’ve been to. As a band, they clearly love their instruments and their craft. If any criticism can levelled on their most recent LP – V2.0 – it would be the rigidity of certain tracks. Clear proof of their expert writing ability but a lack of free-form elements. Everything crafted precisely. This is not the case tonight.
They play as if it’s the first time they’ve play these songs – not to say cluelessly – but with a fluidity seemingly impossible through rehearsals. There is a freshness and a uniqueness to the way they play, which seems to fly in the face of rigid rehearsals. Ironically, its undoubtedly years and years of practice that allows the band to understand their music – and each other – simply through shared glances.
Throughout the evening, the band played an agreeable mix of new, current and older tracks. Opening with a new piece before playing the first few tracks of their Mercury nominated album, V2.0. Continuing with a mix of tracks from their previous EP, Fanfares, as well as V2.0. Whilst the whole evening was exquisite, particular highlights included:
Bonus track, In Amber, whose inclusion in the set was a pleasant and unexpected surprise.
Final track – post encore – Hopopono. Arguably the band’s most recognisable piece ended the night.
GoGo Penguin are fundamentally a jazz trio but the beauty of their most recent album lies is in the way it weaves other musical influences in its fabric. The band managed to expertly recreate this variety of musical styles into their live iteration, keeping the early DnB elements and even heavy metal dynamics that colour some of their tracks.
I didn’t leave learning anything new. I knew the band would be exceptional and they truly were. In keeping with my preview, I left considering how Howard Moon and Vince Noir could ever have been friends. If Moon wanted to listen to the gig, Noir would just be there in the corner, shouting. It seemed a fitting conclusion for the evening, whilst sadly undermining the whole premise of the show from my youth.