I’m going to take a brief break from the Asian adventures for a bit of a Dutch update. Last night I was lucky enough to head up to Amsterdam to catch Shigeto perform at the mecca for live music that is Paradiso.
Paradiso is an old church that has been converted into a concert venue, and on any one night a number of different artists will play in the different rooms spread throughout the building. The main hall is cavernous, with the high ceiling and tiered balconies creating an impressive sense of grandeur. When coupled with heaving bass and an enthusiastic Dutch crowd it makes for parties like no other and I have already enjoyed a few evenings of worship within its confines.
Smaller artists play in the kleine zaal (small hall), and so with coat check successfully navigated (not quite as straight forward as you might when in the early throes of a truffle trip –it’s the small victories, right?) we pressed through the throngs of people flooding the foyer and headed up the stairs.
Aside from the aesthetics of the setting, the other main attraction to Paradiso is the quality of the sound and lighting, with the techies managing to achieve that perfect level of treble and bass without resorting to volume abuse. My only complaint might be that it’s not nearly dark enough in the small hall, as if keeping the room lit is some manifestation of the Dutch transparency ideal. There is no comforting blackness to slip away into; not only do you dance, but you are seen dancing.
Not to worry though, any fear of looking like silly will soon be swept away, caught up in the lilting bass rips and staccato drumming that drives through the room. Shigeto crouches at his drums, hammering the rhythm home while the crowd gyrates to his hypnotic mix of jazz influenced hip-hop and sub bass. The sound is unique: hauntingly beautiful and melancholic, introspective even; but balanced by a rhythmic core which pushes you forward, head nodding in agreement with the beat.
A girl climbs on stage and dances next to Shigeto, her slow writhing reminiscent of some Athenian ritual, arms spread wide around a swaying head of hair. Shigeto is too focused to pay her any heed, head down, mastering the array of midi boxes and laptop perched precariously next to the drums. The warm hues of the mild psychedelics combine with his set, and it is with genuine euphoria that I shuffle, elbows high and hips askew, swaging out Snoop Dogg style, basking in a magnificent performance.
At different times he is joined on stage by SelfSays, a Michigan-born MC, who adds a nice dynamic to the performance with a crisp flow and that punchy hype that characterises live rap. But it is Shigeto that people have come to see, and with every descent into rumbling bass the crowd drops, bathing in the rich soundscapes. He plays a mix of new and old, and we are particularly privileged to hear some unreleased tracks – needless to say, I’m looking forward to their arrival.
Shigeto seems genuinely humbled by the responses of the crowd, and plays several encores despite promises that each track is his last. It is rewarding to see such enthusiasm and gratitude from a performer, and only adds to the experience.
Finally the lights on stage go up, and we head towards the train station, revelling in the performance. It is serenely calm as I cycle the abandoned streets of Utrecht. The soft gold light of the street lanterns throw auburn shadows on the bricked buildings, and catch the beauty of the early blossoms that delicately coat their skeletal hosts.
In the infamous words of Ice Cube – today was a good day.