On Saturday evening, Submotion Orchestra brought their unique blend of jazz, house and Intelligent Dance Music to the Rescue Rooms, showcasing their incredible musical talent and innovation. This was the final night of their Colour Theory tour, named after their album released earlier this year, and was an epic spectacle, a fitting end.
In place of usual singer, Ruby Wood, who is taking time out to be with her new baby, the band has been touring with singers Alyusha and Billy Boothroyd (whose vocals can be heard on More Than This off the new album). It must be daunting for these artists to be tasked with replacing such a distinctive voice, which has been integral to the band’s music over their four albums, but they both did a brilliant job.
Alyusha, whose tones are woodier and richer than Wood’s, was particularly impressive – her range must have spanned across at least three octaves during the show, yet she seemed to find the vocal acrobatics effortless. Dressed in a monochrome kimono and her hair in a large vertical bun, she looked like a cross between an Eastern princess and someone who had just emerged from the bath as she sauntered across the stage, owning every inch of it and feeling like a member of the band. Never at any point did she ever feel like the self-conscious understudy trying to mimic the lead actress; she brought her own style to each song, turning them into something personal. Boothroyd didn’t feel quite so comfortable on the stage, but his strong, jazzy vocals were well-framed in the songs, and while the occasional flat note reverberated across the crowd, he generally did the source material justice.
As has always been the way with Submotion Orchestra, the real point of music interest lay with the instrumentalists. Heavy basslines, twinkling piano lines and complex percussive rhythms were elevated by Simon “Bobby” Beddoe’s masterful trumpet solos, which were at once technically impressive and highly emotional. The cross- and off-beat rhythms that the band are known for using made the music both jarring and exciting, and one never tires of watching an audience of people jerkily bobbing around as their bodies try to find beats 2 and 4.
The music was truly epic and many of the songs were played with deeper bass than recorded, building to heavy dubstep drops that shook the room (literally). At times, Rescue Rooms could feel too small for the huge sound being produced and the crowd too sedate – this was music that deserved to be played outside, at night, across a field of enraptured festival-goers looking for an “enlightening musical experience”. The fact that it was still light outside at 20:00 when the band started their set slightly detracted from the magic of the music.
Still, the music was expertly played, with vigour and colour over a tremendous sound system. It was a captivating show of such auditory size that it threatened to burst out of the building – which I suppose one would only expect from an orchestra.