In these spoilerific days, it’s increasingly rare to approach a live show without knowing what to expect. Setlists are posted online within moments of an encore ending (if not before), and quickly turned into Spotify playlists as an attempt to condense the live experience into a small, easily digestible package. Damo Suzuki doesn’t follow the same rules as the rest of the music world though. His daring approach to live performance with his network of ‘sound carriers’ resist any attempt to categorise or capture – to see it is to experience it, to miss it is to miss out.
In every venue, a new group of local musicians are brought together to act as ‘sound carriers’ for the night – providing a truly unique experience each time. For the Brighton leg, a Brighton mini-supergroup had been formed featuring Harker’s Mark Boniface on guitar and band-members of fellow locals Yetti. Only percussionist E-Da was previously known to Suzuki before the show, and he brought a late addition along on the night in the form of the sensational Kina on saxophone. As Suzuki introduced himself to his band with a short handshake and warm smile, the mind boggled at a musician taking musical risks in this manner.
Although he was only in the band for three years, Damo Suzuki was integral to the critical and commercial highlights of Can’s oeuvre with the likes of Tago Mago (1971) and Future Days (1973) becoming huge influences on the likes of Radiohead and Primal Scream with their free-form experimental rock and driving krautrock beats. As the music built tonight, it was clear that he had lost none of his ability to transform the smallest room into a vast space packed with infinite cosmic possibilities. The drumming of E-Da and Bob Neely along with Dan Joyce’s jumping bassline created the rhythm and beat with a solidity that seemed to become the very ground under our feet. Boniface and Ian Humes on guitar fused their sound with a buzzing, foggy and almost primordial noise while Kina’s saxophone emerged out of the mix, swirling and swooping like a flock of birds. Or at least that’s how it all felt to me. The joy of this is that every single person in the room will have forged a different connection to the music, a different frame of reference from which to describe it.
Forwards and upwards the music progressed, with Suzuki adding his indecipherable vocals throughout with eyes tightly shut and thin beads of sweat dripping down his face – how much of it was even a real language, even he may not know. Snatches of recognisable words were glimpsed, though it seemed of little importance to understand it. The 45 minute point came and went and we were still on the opening track. The music ebbed and flowed like a tide, touching elements of dub and even trance before finally stopping nearly exactly one hour into the show. Dancing throughout, the crowd briefly broke free from its hypnotic state to meet the pause with wild acclaim. “So nice to see smiling faces,” Suzuki simply said, reciprocating and returning the audience’s applause.
Into the second half of the show, and this time it took on more of a traditional krautrock sound. The transcendent beat of the rolling drums was incredible, while Suzuki repeated a simple (though perhaps nonsensical) phrase over and over. It formed music that was truly universal. Any human being from any era of civilisation would have heard the beat and reacted in exactly the same way – dance. And that’s exactly what the audience did as a glance back at the crowd confirmed, with many sets of eyes shut and hands in the air – completely lost in the music. The second song was a mere 30 minutes long and as it, and the night, finally wrapped up, Suzuki brought his band together for a well-earned bow to the crowd. As the band filed off, a woman next to me turned to her friend and perfectly summed up an unforgettable evening with a true musical pioneer and genius. Eyes excited and bright, she said through a wide grin, “That. Was. Crazy.”