When I enter the hall for Morcheeba’s concert at Zorlu PSM Jazz Festival, I am being met by Ross Godfrey’s guitar riff in Never Undo, the opening track of their latest album ‘Blaze Away’. A nice piece to start the concert. The hall had just begun to sway to the music, lead singer Skye Edwards makes an impressive entrance from the left. With her red bowler hat, leaving her face in the dark and her outfit of the same color, but looking like a shadow, she sneaks in marching to the beats of the music. Oh no! I’m at the backmost, the hall is big and full, I am of average height and I wear glasses since I was 3; how will I see the stage? After trying to reach the front a few times, I give up and go by the FOH. It seems it will be pleasant enough only to hear the concert.
I have to admit that I haven’t followed Morcheeba for a while, but when I heard they were coming, I thought it would be nice to see them for the sake of old days, besides I had not seen them live before. The last album I recall is ‘Charango’, released in 2002, their last before Skye Edwards departed. I listened to Morcheeba for a couple of days before the concert to catch up with their music. While Skye Edwards was gone, they had made two albums (the second being strongly inclined to folk), in which her absence was clearly felt. Skye Edwards returned to Morcheeba with their 2010 album ‘Blood Like Lemonade’. They are here as a part of their latest album, ‘Blaze Away’s tour. Paul from Godfrey brothers is no longer with them, Ross Godfrey and Skye Edwards carry on Morcheeba.
They begin the concert with a song from that album but then they go back with two reggae / dub influenced songs, Friction (Big Calm – 1998) and Never An Easy Way (Who Can You Trust? – 1996). Throughout the concert, they don’t play much from the last album anyway.
Skye Edwards is not rusty at all, on the contrary, she’s gleaming. Her misty voice is crystal clear, her singing is effortless; on top of them come her sincere communication with the audience, her graceful swaying on stage, her astonishingly pleasant looks and her dance in harmony. I’m sure it would be much more enjoyable to see her closely but her stage presence is so strong that her energy can reach every corner of the hall. The other lead in the music is of course the guitar. Ross Godfrey plays the guitar in order to serve the music; slide, wah-wah, rhythmic, atmospheric… Playing not like a guitarist with his own style but as a producer-guitarist. As he said in one interview “Music has lot of its own and it tells you what it wants you to do. If you try to control music it doesn’t end up very good” The guitar goes from role to role, carries the listener from emotion to emotion and always adds a very pleasant flavour to the music. My hat’s off to him. In supporting roles there are Rhodes (and keys), bass guitar and drums… All of them are playing very clean as if you listen to a studio recording, arrangements are unfussy, calm; everything is as it should be, nothing less nothing more. Benedict Cowen on keys, Steven Gordon (Skye Edwars’ husband) on bass, and Jaega McKenna – Gordon on drums. When introducing the band, Skye says the drummer is his son. We are pretty surprised hearing that, as seeing them side by side you would easily say she is his sister or even girlfriend. Skye Edwards is a Benjamin Button-like case, looks even younger and prettier than 20 years ago. That’s being my comment from distance, I am even more surprised when I watch the videos.
Since I’m in the back, the music in my ear, I give my attention to the environment. The majority of the hall accompanying the songs, and not only in the refrains, amazes me. When I take a closer look, I understand why. Most of them being British, there are too many foreigners in the hall. I look at the age group, the ‘middle’ aged like me who had experienced Morcheeba period is in the minority. Of course, I see a small part of the audience from behind but since I don’t suppose my peers have come early to be in the front, I assume this may be a proportion concerning the whole. The majority does not appear to be at an age to be the band’s listener 20 years ago. So the music of Morcheeba must have continued to spread through the siblings and children. The audience is nice but the phones are up in the air; recording, recording, recording… So much so that Skye Edwards calls out to a member of the audience, “Hello sir. If you have taken enough photos, how about enjoying some of the concert?” she asks. Very gracefully but with a whopping slap effect.
Here come the hits. They make a hardcore beginning with Otherwise, followed by Part of the Process, the Sea, World Looking In, Trigger Hippie… Screaming, cheering, and applause before and after each song.
A song request comes from the audience. A piece that wasn’t in the concert repertoire and never sung by Skye Edwards before, it is Enjoy the Ride, which Judie Tzuke sang in ‘Dive Deep’ album. Skye gets carried away and the band keeps up with her. The lyrics get Googleised, “Look, we have not rehearsed this song” warning is made and Enjoy the Ride is being performed much better than most rehearsed songs that I have listened to, accompanied by the audience singing all together.
Blaze Away, Blood Like Lemonade, Slow Down, Blindfold; old and new, other pieces they play at the concert. They also cover David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, but it is not a choice to meet the audience’s fiery state that they have created with “Who wants to party? Who wants to dance?” just before the song. That’s the only part I feel left out of the concert. Other than that, musically it is a very satisfactory concert that appeals not only to the ears but also to the eyes.
They take their time before the encore, the screams don’t cease in the hall. Coming up to the stage, Skye Edwards invites the audience to turn their mobile phones on to make an accompanying light to the song. They play Find Another Way from the latest album. I think it’s a ‘cooling down the audience with a slow song at the encore’ strategy, but no, they close with a high tempo song, Rome Wasn’t Built in A Day, from their 2000 album, ‘Fragments of Freedom’. Nice piece to finish the concert. Youth days in mind, this very familiar melody in ears, humming like birds, we leave the hall with good feelings.
Before the concert, I was wondering if Morcheeba had stayed and should be left in the ’90s but not at all. Morcheeba’s music has been transformed into the present and the band is still producing and presenting new, enjoyable material for those who love this music.
Watching the soundman Yves Schommer, dancing with the upper part of his body and singing along the songs, hands over the buttons in harmony with the rhythm and almost seeming like one of the instrumentalist, was also very pleasant. I’ve been in the business for so long but never seen a sound guy doing his job enjoying so much. And the sound in the hall was pretty good.
The light was serving the music very nicely, to me, it was one of the instruments on stage. Guitar and light’s battle (sometimes duet) and the use of white light scattering all over the hall through Skye Edwards’ silhouette had particularly a dramatic effect. There was David Rivir at the lighting desk and Sadık Avcı, the visual design manager of Zorlu PSM, had contributed to the light design.
Since I don’t have a good quality video from the concert, I invite you to watch Morcheeba’s concert with a similar repertoire and performance at the 2018 Leverkusen Jazz Festival.