Niche Productions pres. Solaa @ Civic Underground. Sydney (17/05/08)

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So here I am, trying to find a structure for what are otherwise a series of disconnected thoughts about another fine evening’s entertainment by the Niche Productions people, pitching their tent for the first time tonight in the gem of a venue that is the new Civic Underground. I’ve come up with “Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue (s) was the order of proceedings tonight”.

As for old, well, this clichéd opening is pretty old, but old too are Solaa who’ve been together for more than ten years – and who’ve learnt a thing or two about stage craft in that time, as tonight’s assured performance showed. As for new, the super-schmickness of the Civic’s fitout fits that bill, as did the new tracks from Noel Boogie that we got to hear prior to the main act hitting the stage. For borrowed, see clichéd opening again, and as for blues, that is just part of what Solaa bring to the mix.

But we could talk in clichés until the cows come home. What does it all mean, I hear you ask?

Let’s start with the place. The downstairs room at the Civic Hotel has been the beneficiary of some serious jazzing up just recently. With padded white walls, air conditioning that now seems to actually work, and most importantly a sound system which, on a scale of one to seriously awesome, scores a seriously awesome, there is a lot to like about this venue. As I wander in, Isaac Aesili from Solaa is playing some records: some funk, some soul, some hip hop. It’s the sort of stuff the sound system responds to really well, and the nodding of heads suggests the punters are responding well too.

Isaac makes way for Noel Boogie, who was fortunate not to be born “Noel Polka” given the style of music which is his penchant. As well as being an exceptionally fine DJ, Noel Boogie is often to be seen on stage as part of some of Sydney’s premier live electronic groups, including Mark Walton’s Fretless and the Rephrase live show. To that list, you will shortly be able to add the name “10 Moves” if the two tracks which Boogie played (namely, Desert Walk and The Chase) are anything to go by. Keep an ear out for those.

Boogie built the groove nicely allowing Solaa to take to the stage with a dancefloor ready to come alive. Solaa were in seven-piece configuration; without their horns (other than the aforementioned Mr Aesili on trumpet) but with guitar, bass, keys, drums and percussion, and vocalists. The percussionist was fulfilling the role usually played by the front of the bass drum in days gone by (namely, wearing a Solaa T-shirt to remind you who you were watching in case you forgot. What did you think I meant?)

Solaa played a number of tracks from their recently released Steps in Time album, and their playing was at once both tightly structured and seemingly effortless. I wouldn’t personally have given their guitarist vocal duties on a track called Saturday Night (*Ian Moss* can get away with that, not sure you can) and I would have liked to have seen them with a full horn section (especially given how many of their best moments has Aesili’s trumpet running through them), but overall it was an assured performance of some very, very good material. Steps in Time has been on high rotation since the gig and if you don’t own a copy, what are you doing reading this review when you could be shopping?

I slid off into the night after Solaa finished to catch the end of the FA Cup final (waste of space that turned out to be – I should have stayed around for more Boogie) so that’s all I can tell you for present purposes. But as I have managed to get through the review without a bad pun about Solaa power, maybe I should quit while I’m ahead.

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