There are few bands that can truly encapsulate an audience like this. Unknown Mortal Orchestra bring free-spirited rock fused funk and honey-dipped jazz psychedelica to The Royal Albert Hall, bringing with them an energy and excitement to be remembered.
UMO open with ethereal guitar chimes and a flugelhorn that find their way through the void into an even funkier live version of ‘From The Sun’. Frontman Ruban Nielson jumps the barrier during his guitar solo trailed by a huge lightsaber-like fluorescent tube and strides through the crowd to the lighting crew where he necks back a shot with them, climbs into the seating area, goes backstage and up a few floors crashing into a private box before returning to the stage — still continuing his now 10-minute hypnotic guitar solo. First song down and this show is already entirely out of the ordinary.
The first song blends into ‘Ur Life One Night’ and by the time the band starts playing ‘Necessary Evil’, everyone’s bobbing and wishing the Hall’s standing area was a hell of a lot larger. We are introduced to the band which happens to be Ruben’s brother, father and best friend who all convalesce homogeneously so that before the downtempo ‘So Good At Being In Trouble’ begins, Reuban gets a small standing ovation. There is another live version treat as the song descends into a guitar-flugelhorn jazz arrangement that then evolves into the chaotically intense flugelhorn-solo driven downbeat of ‘Hanoi 6’ off the newly released surprise psychedelic avant-garde jazz instrumental album ‘IC-01 Hanoi’. Phenomenal scenes. Imagine going tour and your dad stealing the show for a bit with his 10 minute trumpet solo. Nothing about this show feels arranged. Everything feels organic.
The start of ‘American guilt’ is like an epileptic electric guitar thrash matched with a carefully orchestrated lights show. Reuban slips into the crowd again for ‘Not in Love We’re Just High’ shortly before getting carried up joyfully about by the crowd. “Be gentle” he whispers into the mic in between a crooning verse. Returning to the stage, the song turns into another fatalistic jazzy downbeat driven by drums that blends into the iconic ‘Multi-Love’.
The band leaves the stage and the crowd goes mental. Everyone screams for more and a fleet of pounding feet shake and rumble the Hall. Under the cover of darkness, a trio of violinists slip into a compartment above the stage and appear drenched in pink light to intro ‘Hunnybee’, an ode to Nielson’s daughter. Everyone is ecstatic and gets up to dance to the pink-hued psychedelic disco funk. Cue the show’s finale ‘Can’t Keep Checking My Phone’, a rainbow of disco lights and everyone up and dancing together. Few shows are so blissfully memorable as this.
All images belong to Kimberley Ross