Tuesday, March 3
Neneh Cherry is a Swedish-born, British-based singer/songwriter. She worked with seminal punk group The Slits and was part of the post-punk ensemble Rip Rig + Panic before moving towards hip-hop with her 1989 solo debut, Raw Like Sushi and breakout single, Buffalo Stance.
It was nearly two decades between solo albums before last year’s Blank Project ushered in this return to the stage. Backed by the synth/drum duo RocketNumberNine (brothers Ben and Tom Page) Cherry is a hypnotic presence whether offering the siren-song of Across The Water or using movement to expound on the lyrical theme of Weightless.
The music of Blank Project is claustrophobic, profoundly paranoid, stark and worried – the live representation brings all of those shades to the stage, the band mostly just silhouettes with washes of blue, red and amber lights to punctuate. There’s something special about this music in its live presentation – we’re forced to concentrate almost entirely on the music, the musicians are shadows, conduits for the songs. We’re never caught up in their playing personalities. It’s about the energy, which is palpable. It’s about the end-product, the music.
And Blank Project is the backbone of the show, the early inclusion of its title track a highlight, the “black dog” homily Spit Three Times and the penultimate crescendo of Dossier all helping to mark – and make – the journey. It was in fact a setlist as musical journey. We heard from 1996’s Man and that ground-breaking debut record as well, but it was Blank Project providing the ribs.
Sinewy, groove-focused pieces, as Cherry’s dance continued to sell the sound of the band in the spaces between her vocals, stabs of synth and the rolling, tumbling drums peeking out in and around the shades of darkness, this was the rock’n’roll show as art-house movie. It was a return to Cherry’s punk roots and a reminder of her MC skills – she spoke, rapped, chanted, wailed and sang always and entirely from her heart. It was spellbinding. Relentless. And beautiful. Stunning.
This review appeared in The Dominion Post – I’ve reposted it here on Off The Tracks due to requests from people wanting to view it online