Opera House, Wellington
Saturday , June 10 (8pm)
The Comet Is Coming is a British “future jazz” trio comprised of Danalogue the Conqueror (Dan Leavers) on synths, Betamax Killer (Max Hallett) on drums and King Shabaka (Shabaka Hutchings) on saxophone – they were pitched as a highlight of the jazz festival.
And their set did not disappoint.
First off, Betamax Killer’s drum sound was the best I’ve ever heard in this venue – then there was his actual drumming! Reminiscent of Pierre Moerlen (Gong) – in particular the propulsive energy of Moerlen’s work with Mike Oldfield. And that’s the thing with The Comet Is Coming, you can sense they grab their influences from across the musical spectrum, as several of the tunes offered throwbacks to late-90s/early-00s rave culture but were carried away on long, wafting saxophone solos. One minute it was some version of The James Hardway Quarter, next minute you could imagine them creating a spellbinding backdrop for a Massive Attack song you’ve never heard.
In the early moments it was Shabaka that stood out as the star. Every time he put the horn to his lips the audience was transported.
But Betamax just built and built, his Afrobeat/world-fusion grooves were relentless. And just as those two seemed like the stars in the final third it was Danalogue whose energy kept the act from falling in on itself.
Never quite jazz, rather using jazz as a springboard – adhering mostly to the interplay of jazz, and its inherent sense of dynamics – the future-funk workouts were hypnotic and infectious.
Some of the tunes had the feel of Cinematic Orchestra, particularly the material from the most recent (album-length) EP. But each long, instrumental piece would unfold from its slow-build beginnings to fully occupy the space of the theatre, eventually audience members were up and in the aisles. And that’s really the only complaint. This should have been at a standing/GA venue, not seated. It should have been in some old warehouse even, the audience members mingling with the band, no separation between stage and crowd.
This is Wellington’s big problem with venues of course.
But that’s a small point. They filled the Opera House with sound – and people. And the venue (seated) did its job apart from the fact that the rules of that place are a little draconian – at an event like this one people should be allowed to stand freely, take photos, and so on. It’s all part of it.