Monday is never going to be an easy gig, what with most people still recovering from the weekend and knackered from a day’s work, but George FitzGerald and his excellent live band managed to banish the Monday blues instantly, making it feel like a demob happy Friday night.
Support came in the shape of a little-known female electronic music producer called MAIA, who was a very pleasant surprise. With psychedelic visuals playing on the screen behind the stage, she played a short but sweet set, using synths, laptop and hitting her drum machine like her life depended on it. Her timing as accurate as her black fringe, it was refreshing to see an accomplished woman on the decks. Subsequent Googling returned no results, so someone needs to work on promotion.
The first date on his ‘All That Must Be’ album tour, this was FitzGerald’s second Brighton show, having supported the legendary Bonobo last November. The Haunt was at full capacity with students and millennials, who clearly knew it would be worth venturing out for on a Monday night. Anyone who’s listened to the album released earlier this month (which we have, on repeat) will know that his sound is developing in a rather impressive and exciting way. Having recently become a father and moved back to London from Berlin, FitzGerald describes it as “the sound of me struggling to find balance amidst all the chaos, failing and then trying again.”
Eschewing visuals for three excellent live musicians – keyboardist Mike Lesirge, drummer Guillaume Jambel and fantastic occasional vocalist Obenewa Aboah – George showed his skill on synths, keys and drum machine during a performance that was intimate, on point and thrilling to the point of goosebumps. The music spoke for itself.
Commencing with ‘All That Must Be’s opening track, ‘Two Moons Under’, this flowed easily into ‘Knife To The Heart’, a track from his wonderful 2015 album ‘Fading Love’. It was an electrifying start to the set, received with loud applause and cheering. While some DJ/producers can be somewhat dull to watch live, FitzGerald is quietly mesmerising as he moves seamlessly from one electronic instrument to another, obviously enjoying himself and the music, whilst appreciating the crowd.
Launching into his lush collab with Bonobo, ‘Outgrown’, it sounded even better live, the multilayered beats and harmonies filling the small venue and drawing the audience in. Another level was reached, however, when Aboah joined the others onstage for a version of FitzGerald’s track with fellow British producer Lil Silva, and one of the highlights of the album, ‘Roll Back’. Her grace and presence were spellbinding, while her rich, rounded vocal added a whole new dimension to the song, leaving the transfixed audience gagging for more.
The transportive, melancholic sound the ensemble produced created some spine-tingling moments, not least with their rendition of ‘Burns’. One of the most intense and moving tracks on the album, while being undoubtedly made for the dancefloor, this received a massive reception. And this is where FitzGerald’s talent really lies; a musician capable of making the transition from introspective contemplation to dancefloor banger in one fell swoop.
After finishing a tight set that seemed to develop into something larger than the sum of its parts over the course of the hour or so they played, the quartet returned to a foot-stomping encore of crowd-pleaser ‘Full Circle’; Aboah connecting with the fans through her call and response of the chorus, and raising the roof with her incredibly powerful voice.
It’s little wonder George FitzGerald is on the Guardian’s ‘One to Watch’ list and ‘Full Circle’ has racked up more than 12 million plays on Spotify. Rough Trade describes him as ‘a pre-eminent figure in the electronic music world’ and if Bonobo isn’t careful, FitzGerald may well steal his crown.
The Haunt, Monday 26th March 2018
Words by Emma Baker
Photo by Liam Mcmillen