Romare – Headrow House, Leeds: The view from Far Out
After catching electronic behemoth Bonobo on the road in Manchester last week, we just had to head to West Yorkshire to compare notes on another shining light of the current Ninja Tune roster.
For a few years now, Romare (real name Archie Fairhurst) has been tickling our lobes with an entrancing collage of jazz, afrobeat, blues and soul, all bound together with a beat-heavy production style that never fails to get toes tapping.
But after spending his career thus far DJing and rocking small venues with a live solo show, he has embarked on his first tour with a band backing him up.
This more expansive set-up has coincided with the release of Fairhurst’s second LP, Love Songs: Part Two, a title that acts as a sequel to a sublime EP released four years ago now. This contextual framing sends shivers down the Far Out spine with regards to how fast time has flown.
Romare takes centre stage armed with an artillery of swirling synths and infectious samples. To his right is a percussionist who sits in front of a gong – an addition that captivates our intrigue from the off – while to his left is a multi-instrumentalist who adds infinite colour to a club-friendly set, providing flute, saxophone and bass throughout the night.
Rather than a rigidly defined set that simply runs through each records’ highlights, the performance that ensues is a sprawling trip through electronic jazz fusion. Proceedings open in an ambient manner with a smattering section from the aforementioned flute, before Fairhurst dictates a journey full of peaks and troughs that enchants the Saturday night party crowd and the more discerning chin-strokers in equal measure.
The flatness of the stage and the packed-out crowd means we struggle to see some of the finer nuances of the instrumentation from our spot towards the back, but that matters not on a sonic journey that seems to touch on almost every corner of the last 20 years of club music.
Electrifying synth parts conjure memories of Daft Punk’s Homework, while the darker moments of the set even echo the kind of concrete-jungle early hours beats that defined the rise of the London dubstep scene around the turn of the millennium – yet such eclectic influences are knitted together with consummate ease.
However, the crescendo of the night turns back to the afrobeat roots that defined Romare’s early success with a reimagined version of ‘The Blues (It Began in Africa)’ – a staple of his debut EP.
Those turning up and expecting verbatim versions of his poppier singles may well not get what they were bargaining for, but in it’s place lies a masterclass in experimentation that has had a sold out Leeds audience fixated… An enthralling roller-coaster of a set.