11 May 2022 (gig)
15 May 2022
I remember a film from the 1980’s called Jagged Edge, with Jeff Bridges that gave me chills and thrills with it’s about turns in the plot. Jagged edge is also a simple literary term to describe the musical vibe of the band Black Midi. If you got as shook up and beat up leading to a TKO after hearing 2019’s debut album ‘Schlagenheim’ as I did, you will understand my eagerness to experience their live scenario. This Milano gig, already postponed twice for covid reasons, is finally taking place, at the very stylish, compact theatre that is the Santeria Toscana.
The band released a second album in 2021, ‘Cavalcade’, if anything an even more ambitious and quirky collection of songs than is the predecessor. The band formed in London in 2017 with Geordie Greep (vox, guitar), Cameron Picton (vox, bass), Morgan Simpson (drums) and Matt Kwasniewski (guitar), the latter now on a long hiatus from the band since 2020 for personal reasons. With the addition of Seth Evans (keyboards) and Kaidi Akinnibi (saxophone) featuring prominently on the ‘Cavalcade’ album and in the live shows, the whole sound has evolved so that jazz, rock, punk, prog and more, all mesh together to create the Black Midi experience. This maybe a cacophony of noise to some but to me, on vinyl at least, it’s a masterful blend of skilful playing, hypnotic songs with that jagged edge.
They amble on stage, Geordie, with dark sunglasses that are a little bit too big for him so having continually to nudge them back onto the bridge of his nose throughout the concert, all suited up, the others in shorts and tops. They begin with 953 from the debut album and it will be one of the few recognisable tracks of the night as one song seems to mesh into another with weird improvised interludes and also as many of the songs showcased tonight are new and likely to be on the new album ‘Hellfire’ which has a July 2022 release date.
This shouldn’t really matter as watching the band, you have to enter a mind-set where you follow their whims and turns, pogoing one minute, in silence the next. This works for most of the time but even though they are very involved with each other’s playing and vibes, it does sometimes feel like self-indulgence creeps in. Snippets of songs like The James Bond theme or Dolce Vita (the 80’s hit for Italian popstar Ryan Paris) are more for their amusement than anyone else’s and some of the goodwill and energy of the always generous Italian crowd does dissipate somewhat.
The tracks ‘Chondromalacia Patella and John L’ restore the vivacity in the crowd but the band feed off the vibrant urgent and mesmeric drumming of Morgan Simpson placed side on, front stage for this very reason and it is he with his jazz, rock, Brazilian rhythms that gives them their jagged edge on stage and make the whole thing work. The band play for 75 minutes and leave with no encore but that is no bad thing as I prefer shorter more intense sets these days tbh. Black Midi are for sure very engaging and at times when they gel, compelling, but I feel they still have a way to go on the road to getting it right, especially live where they will learn to improve crowd interaction and feed off their energy as opposed to just each other’s . But I will be with them on the way as they are so original and different: The new single ‘Welcome to Hell’ is wonderful by the way and from what I could make out tonight, the new album promises well. They will have to prepare to being popular.
Welcome to Hell
Love Song ( Taylor Swift cover)
Eat Men, Eat