Quantic Soul Orchestra & Alice Russell @ Metro, Sydney (19/11/05)

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Just before midnight at The Metro in the middle of Sydney, Alice Russell joins the stage alongside Will Holland of Quantic Soul Orchestra with Australian funk band The Bamboos to let the packed house know that they “are here to make you dance!” The audience cheers hello and goes crazy in excitement to the Quantic song Don’t Joke With A Hungry Man.

Before this however, there was plenty of soul, funk, hip hop and broken beat both in the main room and the foyer to get the crowd warmed up. Those in attendance ranged in age from early to mid 20’s up to a fair few over 35’s. Interesting, funky and experimental clothes were in abundance and to top it off, with a funk and soul night there’s not a lot of ambience for ill feeling or aggression. Smiles were aplenty and the lines for the bar were a few people deep despite the slightly overpriced beers.

Those in the foyer were being serenaded by Ed Seven, moving the sounds from middle eastern, bass heavy hip hop beats through to funk with some Lyrics Born thrown in at one point. The music at times were strongly reminiscent of Jazzanova’s broken beats style and had many heads moving as the bar area began to fill up. By 10pm there was a solid line going down the stairs and around the corner outside.

Blaze was in the main room throwing the beat from strong, rhythmic stately funk to a fast moving flute driven songs that seemed to jump straight from an Austin Powers soundtrack. The projected screen at the back of the stage did nothing to take this image away, with clips of Rank Arena televisions playing black and white images of old movies, tv programs and wildlife jungle docos mixed in with twirling blue and white circles underneath butterflies floating across the screen. The music went from dripping cheese soul through to harmonica driven blues guitar and Blues Brothers style funk tracks.

Up next were Aaron Phiri and Mad Mats on MC and decks respectively. Requesting an “interactive audience” the pair, Raw Fusion Sound System, got the dancefloor filled up and moving crying out that the louder we got, the louder they got. With the stands filling up as well, the room began to jump for the night, the smiles on the punters widening a further inch. Meanwhile outside, Somatic and Nathan McLay were on the decks pumping out mid paced broken beat, with a track that seemed to sample Basement Jaxx’s ‘Do Your Thing’ over the top.
 
The sound got a little loud in the main room, a casual look over the soundboard saw the levels pushing well into the red with not much been done to prevent it, and for a ticket of over $40, while you’re audience to some amazing music and performance, the production seemed to need a little more attention. The lighting rig also seemed a little bland, yet again, with the music in question you tended to look past this pretty quickly. 

When Raw Fusion Sound System ended, there was a quick stage move, and a suited figure walked across the stage and began playing a quick funk riff. Quantic Soul Orchestra were landing. One by one the band arrived, two guitarists including Holland, a bass guitarist, drummer, keyboardist, trombonist and saxophonist, and of course with Alice Russell fronting the stage with her full mouthed singing style and unbeatable smile as she gushed at how lovely the audience were, and how it would be so pleasing to give a great show. The songs played were a mixture of QSO tracks, songs by Alice Russell and one, Steppin’ Out by The Bamboos.  

The crowd couldn’t be stopped moving to this music if you tried, there were bumps as ridiculous dance moves were pulled, but smiles as forgiveness was the easier option when the tunes are so good. When the band struck up The White Stripes song Seven Nation Army, Russell’s voice slowly kicks, leading the band with such constrained power so as to bring the most quiet of folk to scream their heads off in enjoyment. When the band slowed for a jazzier number the mood is not quenched in the slightest, not a thing is taken away. Many lounge DJs are playing these types of tracks these days, on Saturday night we were blessed with the real thing, a great testament to Hollands rule with QSO to have it purely instrumental, no samples allowed.

Outside in the foyer Trevor Parkee was switching between soft soul and slow groove funk to allow the resting of tired joints that had no choice but to bop in the main room.  Before the end of the QSO show, we had been entertained by solos from each band member at least once, with the keyboardist on a Roland VR-760, a multi function key/synth machine that was played like it was the last time it would ever be used.

A brief interlude between the end of their performance was with the Bamboos drummer and Aaron Phiri doing some freestyling on top, and then when the turntables were again rolled out onto stage, out came Russ Drewbury. Beginning with afro-funk, Drewbury’s set went through an eclectic assortment of music styles. At one point a fast percussive beat was introduced as “a celebration suite, with congratulations to the Australian soccer team”. Here was a DJ who could not only play records, but also occasionally pick up a microphone and either introduce the music, or blather on about whatever, and not actually destroy the feeling of the music! Amazing in this day and age…well, for Sydney it certainly seems so. Expecting more soul by this point, the slightly more cleared out dance floor has plenty of room to move and Russ plays out some more energetic Drum’n’Bass, one song, ’a tryout’ was Headshaker, a dnb track by Heny G that was led with harmonica and a blues base. A pearler of a track to look out for.  

After an hour, Drewbury’s last track is by Bonnie Hathaway leading Quantic onto the decks. We’re greeted by slow, luscious samba that has the remaining crowd on the floor swinging around kicking the many empty plastic cups that had been dropped through the night. Alice Russell can be seen kneeling on the edge of the stage signing autographs while Russ hangs about the decks drinking and chatting with Holland who continues playing raw funk into absolute soul well up to the end of the evening. By the end of the night there were about 80 people left, all bopping along and loving it. We had been given a great performance by a top bunch of musicians who have an obvious love for their game, and we, well certainly I, loved them for it. 

An Apology: I have tried to use the words “funk” and “soul” as little as possible while doing this review, really, I have!

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