Young Fathers - 19 July, 2018, Nice Jazz Festival, Masséna Stage.
On the button at 8 there is a pounding beat - Young Fathers are here. The Nice crowd is just arriving. A pity that some will miss this. There is a core following there with them as they blend rap, rock and soul. Nobody cares - it’s Young Fathers! Tight, heavy, hard - just the right attitude to take this audience on. Most are here to see Massive Attack, probably not realising the bands’ recent links. Visually, this is interesting too, Massaquoi's Cocoa Sugar hat, Bankole’s bare chest and dance moves, and it gets the first-time listeners into the sound textures blasting from the stage.
The voices combine well, each singer bringing their own strengths. Bankole, stripped to the waist is an energetic and interesting focus, delivering his lyrics with passion and soul, riffing James Brown, especially on Holy Ghost, adding a final funky flourish over the electro; Hastings gives it the oomph when he needs to, his versatile voice often coming in as a backing to the others and the sequencer, synth and drum machine tracks; while Massaquoi's resonating voice fills every corner of Place Masséna. People who came for Massive Attack are hit hard between the eyes with a slice of James Brown funk.
The crowd bounce, singing to Toy, with its delicious little pause then blistering beat coda, or in my view, throbbing with the heavy sub bass rhythms of Old Rock n Roll. This is music that is committed, both to sounds and ideas, music with sensurround soul.
The interaction with the crowd is minimal, bordering on aggressive from Hastings at times, matching the sound, heavier, harder and harsher than on record. Steven Morrison on percussion lays it out and reminds us why his tattered cymbals featured in the Rip It Up exhibition in Edinburgh. As they leave the stage there is a jagged electronic squealing from the electronics and we know it’s over, no messing about.
At the moment, no-one else is making music like Young Fathers. It’s in your face, modern and austere then tender, thoughtful and human.
A blistering performance.