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Rudimental – London Camden Jazz Cafe 25/08/21

A rare chance to catch the Hackney heroes in a tiny, 400 capacity venue

Whatever happened to the good old fashioned encore?  The pantomime of trooping offstage, only to re-enter a few minutes later, is distinctly out of favour in these mean, lean times.

You certainly can’t blame Rudimental for dispensing with this most hackneyed of rituals.  With six – the modest Jazz Café stage is so packed it could easily be a couple more – members plus a host of guests swelling their ranks, getting this lot off and back on again would end up being more like a military exercise than a showbiz indulgence.

Instead, when their sweat soaked set at the ridiculously intimate – at least in comparison to their previous Albert Hall headline – environs of this Camden venue draws to a close, they stay right where they are, leaving keyboard player and apparent band lynchpin Kesi Dryden to inform the audience “if you want one more, making some fucking noise!!”

We mention this only because it’s just one illustration of how the Hackney band so naturally and successfully straddle the often very different worlds of the big venue live act and the authentic underground dance hero.  Having made their name taking the pure dancefloor energy of drum & bass and jungle and harnessing it to anthemic songwriting, they’ve become one of the UK’s most celebrated live acts, capable of delivering ‘proper; studio beats but serving them up with a side order of exhilarating vocals and live playing.

Launching their imminent Ground Control album with a quick run of small club gigs for hardcore fans – you needed to buy the album to even qualify for a chance to get a ticket – the atmosphere is understandably pretty feverish even before we start.  In front of us, three friends do a seemingly endless supply of tequila shots, phone their friends to express their disbelief they’re seeing their favourite band on their doorstep and take group selfies with the stage as a backdrop.  Opening with the brass stabs and tightly drilled vocals on they Bobby Womack collaboration ‘New Day’, even before the first drop into d&b mayhem, the venue is transformed into a sea of swaying arms, delirious grins everywhere you look. 

Even though tonight is about the unreleased album, the band know what they’re doing in terms of pacing the set. Drawing on the dynamics of a well-crafted DJ set – there’s even a cunningly created rewind at one stage – they take the audience up with a few well known bangers, take the tempo down, showing an instinctive affinity for beats from UK and US garage to house and broken beat, before bringing things skillfully back to the boil for a truly rousing finale.

It means that there’s room for more reflective moments like current single ‘Remember Their Names’, the charismatic Josh Barry coming on to take on vocal duties on what is one of the calmest, most dignified protest songs you’ll ever hear.  It’s the kind of dynamic that just goes to make the big tunes sound even bigger when they finally do arrive, with ‘Feel The Love’ and ‘Not Giving In’ proving to be the ultimate showstoppers, huge songs that bulldoze their way through the end of the set in a triumphant climax.

Many us get caught up in the minutiae of music.  Are Wet Leg cooler than Dry Cleaning these days?  Is mid-90s techno better than today’s version?  Meanwhile, the likes of Rudimental are getting on with painting the bigger picture, fusing a properly eclectic collection of modern music styles into something that almost anyone can dig and quite simply becoming one of our best loved bands. 

This rare chance to see them at work at such close quarters was not only a privilege, it was a wonderful illustration of why they’re so big, and still getting bigger by the album.   Next stop Wembley Stadium – stranger things have happened.

Ben Willmott

photos: Nathan Willmott