Review: Theo Parrish, The Ritz, 15/07/14

Theo Parrish at the Ritz, Manchester on 15/07/2014

My summing up of Theo Parrish’s show 2 Tuesdays ago will seem ancient in a world of real-time news and opinion. However in the world of people bumping into each other on the weekend and in the street to chat, I still think I’ve some valuable points to add to what’s become an interesting mini-debate for Manchester music heads.

Theo Parrish’s latest project, a 3-date tour of his first live show in 10 years, was hosted in association with Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA). RBMA is a quality seal of approval for some, especially considering the names  (Moodymann, Larry Levan block party, Masters At Work, Erykah Badu) it’s been associated with in the past.

RBMA made a good choice with their latest addition to their list of  modern music gods. Highly revered, experimental artist within the genre? Tick.  A dedicated audience? Big, fat tick. So the show was absolutely flawless, atmospheric and soul stirring? I’m not sure. Oh…

I was shocked to hear the audience still in pre-show mode in the middle of his first song. I’m not sure whether the crowd wasn’t listening because they were being rude or because his stage presence wasn’t as captive as say, when you see him really giving it in his sets.

The producer and artist covered some soulful classics and brought a soulful and melodic edge to some of deep house and techno based cuts. Despite knowing Parrish was with a full band, including singer/songwriter/keys player Amp Fiddler and a beast of a drummer in Myele Manzana, I found it strange to hear the richer sounds coming from the stage. I’m so used to a stripped-back sound from him but, I knew what we were in for, it’s was a case of taking time to accept the fact.

‘Walking Thru The Sky’ and Soul Control’, two of my absolute favourites of his, just didn’t get me going. I’m annoyed looking back at these moments, as  I should have moved towards the front. I did do later, to find the sound was much better. Finally, I could get a sense of  a connection and respect the band members had for one another.

I’m not entirely sure that respect translated to the audience properly and at times it did feel more like an experimental jam session instead of a professional live performance. I would have preferred to hear more backing singers sharing the vocal responsibilities and seen less of the dancers; who by the last 4 songs were visibly tired. This was a bit of a shame as the band really did get going by then, receiving a rapturous reception for his recent release ‘Footwork.’ I feel like the dancers had their big moment with that song and I just don’t feel they were able to give it their all.

People I’ve spoke to since, all had something to say about the show. Some were unhappy, some indifferent and some loved it. Regardless if they were bored, disappointed or overjoyed, I have to say that the majority reaction was of happiness and pride; particularly as a well-loved member of the deep house community just gave his all for a performance that many critics couldn’t even imagine to have a go at.

Overall, there were sections and areas to be worked at and revised but I think that’s something all performers go through. I believe that with a little polish of the raw talent Parrish possesses will go a long way for his future shows.




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