Matthew Herbert’s Brexit Big Band

This was a concert that marked the end of Sónar, Barcelona’s hippest music festival, and was also part of the GREC arts festival. And wow, it exceeded all my expectations!

Matthew Herbert is a UK composer, producer, DJ and general sound artist. He’s worked with people like Moloko and Björk, made some soundtracks for films, does a lot of projects… He makes music from everyday sounds. He’s been doing concerts with his Big Band for years – with a constantly changing roster of musicians – with the Brexit debacle of the past few years giving him new and rich subject matter.

So I knew all this at the back of my mind, and saw the concert was at the GREC theatre, which I’d wanted to visit, but I hadn’t really considered what the live experience might be like.

Well, it was quite something! Fun and chaotic and loud and energetic. Herbert himself spoke to us a lot (his best Catalán extended to ‘hola’). There were moments of audience participation: a few times he recorded noises we made and used them in the track. The part with the whole audience throwing paper planes with messages on was a wonderful moment of fun. It reminded me of the final splurge fight scene in Bugsy Malone; I was expecting the piano player to fall on the keys to stop it all.

And the musicians were really good and clearly enjoying it. I could listen to jazz drums and double bass for hours. Add in a piano, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, 4 saxophones, a soul singer, some electronic noodling and a choir… It was impossible not to get into it.

Then there’s the venue. Fantastic. Brutál (in Spanish slang). It’s an ancient Greek/Roman-style amphitheatre cut into the stone of Montjuïc. (The layout is much like The Crucible in Sheffield, but outdoors and surrounded by trees.) The theatre’s foyer is some beautiful manicured gardens. Next time, I’ll get there super early and have drinks or even dinner.

So, all-in-all, an evening of unexpected delight! Despite the heat, the broken lift in my building, and my legs/pelvis not being very happy right now, I made it and it was more than worth the effort.


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