What better way for our favourite local record label Tru Thoughts to celebrate their 18th anniversary than by bringing some of their top artists together for a special party at Brighton Dome. This one-off show preceded a larger all-day festival at the Roundhouse in Camden on Saturday.
The Dome bar was buzzing to the tunes of Robert Luis and J-Felix, DJing to a diverse cross section of gig-goers, including children brought along by their trendy parents, reflecting the diversity of music on the record label, from Quantic’s Latin-inflected beats to Rodney P’s UK rap, as well as the longevity and wide-reaching appeal of the label.
Playing to a fairly sparse but engaged early crowd in the main theatre, the exciting new two-piece signing Werkha were joined on stage by vocalist Bryony Jarman-Pinto, whose distinctive vocal style incorporates soul, folk and jazz.
After a break for refreshments, Quantic manned the decks, playing a selection of his old and new material for the next hour, including tracks from his latest album ‘Curao’, featuring the vocal talents of Colombian singer Nidia Góngora. He journeyed through his back catalogue with our pick of the best Tru Thoughts tracks, ‘You Will Return’, dancehall from 2010 album ‘Flowering Inferno’ and classic Quantic in the form of ‘Time Is The Enemy’. While an uplifting and varied selection, the ever-increasing crowd weren’t paying much attention, as there wasn’t a great deal to watch on stage.
After a rather long interval while the stage was set up for the full live band, playing with local songbird and first lady of Tru Thoughts Alice Russell, the tiny vocal powerhouse belted out ‘To Dust’ from the homonymous album. Clearly enjoying playing to her hometown “Brighton peeps”, with her trusty multi-instrumentalist, right-hand man Mike Simmons on backing vocals and violin, she ran through several more tracks from the 2013 album, such as ‘Heartbreaker pt 2’, ‘Citizens’, which she attributed to Brexit, and the funky, jerky ‘For A While’.
Will Holland aka Quantic joined her on stage with his banjo for a rendition of the jazzy ‘I’d Cry’ with a French-sounding violin section by Simmons. Old pals and collaborators Russell and Holland bounced off each other and even shared a giggle, before things took a more sombre tone with a bewitching version of ‘Let Us Be Loving’. The minor keys on keyboard and violin combined with Russell’s impassioned voice must have struck a chord in the heart of every listener in the concert hall. Another track from 2008 album ‘Pot Of Gold’, ‘Got The Hunger’, built up into a frenzied crescendo before the band closed with a version of the White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’, during which several members of Hot 8 Brass Band appeared on stage to contribute a horn section.
Hailing from New Orleans, the larger than life Hot 8 Brass Band filled the stage; their enormous figures equalled by their enormous, brass horns. Having picked the North Laine as the location for their fantastic 2015 video of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Sexual Healing’, as well as playing a sell-out show at the Dome during Brighton Festival earlier this year and leading the Children’s Parade, it’s fair to say Hot 8 have a special affinity with the good folk of Brighton.
With their unique take on well-known classics like Al Green’s ‘Let’s Stay Together’ and Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, the crowd really came alive. By the time ‘Sexual Healing’ came along, everyone was on their feet and singing along. Responding enthusiastically to the call to “get on down”, the crowd collectively dropped it low and engaged with gusto to the call and response. Despite so much foot stomping the floor might have caved in, there was sadly no encore, though this was probably due to the Dome’s strict timings rather than any reluctance on Hot 8’s part.
If this birthday party is anything to go by, Tru Thoughts are stronger than ever, continuing to nurture new talent alongside their more established artists. Here’s to the next 18 years!