There’s been a lot of buzz and anticipation about Blood Orange’s debut Bangkok performance since HAVE YOU HEARD? announced in September that they we’re bringing him over. Dev Hynes, the front man behind Blood Orange, has had such an illustrious career spanning over a decade and history that could fill volumes. Born and raised in London, he started out as one of the members of dance-punk band Test Icicles, before going solo under the name Lightspeed Champion and since 2009 as Blood Orange. During this time he has directly written, worked or co-toured with a wide variety of bands and people including Arctic Monkeys, The Horrors, Tinashe, Solange Knowles, Sky Ferreira, Florence and the Machine, Carly Rae Jepsen, The Chemical Brothers and Kylie Minogue.
He’s achieved almost legendary status for his musical work including being called “the heir to Prince, David Bowie and Michael Jackson” by NPR, a distinction I found fitting after seeing him live. His latest album Freetown Sound has been widely acclaimed, making it all the more special to have him come to Bangkok to perform it, so soon after releasing it.
Designed by Jiro Endo, the stage was framed by long, silvery tassels hanging from the ceiling, which made you feel like you were stepping into the past, or perhaps enjoying a high school dance
The stage was set for a very special night, and the fans were ready, showing up in droves dressed to party. I loved the way Voice Space’s large hall had been set up. Designed by Jiro Endo, the stage was framed by long, silvery tassels hanging from the ceiling, which made you feel like you were stepping into the past, or perhaps enjoying a high school dance.
First up of two support acts, ZiggaRice broke the quietness of the background music, delivering a solid DJ set of hip-hop classics which drew people slowly to the front. Up next was a great set by talented local producer and artist Jaree Thanapura, known by his stage Gramaphone Children, which matched Blood Orange’s upcoming music really well, setting a chill vibe and getting the crowd dancing. At the end of his set, Jaree brought up local singer Pyra to perform a few songs, including “Move Slowly”, a track which they collaborated on together. Pyra’s great stage presence and strong vocals were the perfect note to end on, beginning the anxious wait for Blood Orange’s performance to begin.
Dev Hynes filled the stage with his charisma, seemingly always moving, always expressing one emotion or another … he controlled the flow and pace of the music and the crowd so well. It was as if he was the conductor, with the crowd seemingly moving the same amount as he did.
After a long break, Blood Orange finally appeared, triggering a great response from the crowd. Dev Hynes filled the stage with his charisma, seemingly always moving, always expressing one emotion or another, spurred on by his incredible band, one of the tightest I’ve heard all year. He controlled the flow and pace of the music and the crowd so well. It was as if he was the conductor, with the crowd seemingly moving the same amount as he did. With very little time between songs, the mood and energy of the room never really dipped.
At one point he let his absolutely incredible backup singer Eva Tolkin sing a number as he moved to play the keys. She looked a lot like Sinead O’Connor, with similarly impressive vocals skills, and she clearly enjoyed the moment in the limelight.
While he sang and danced to the majority of his songs, quite a few people around me noted that he was absolutely electrifying when coupled with an electric guitar, which he did on some songs, his guitar solos really raising the energy and getting everyone crazy. I also heard a lot of people comment that he was a mixture of Prince’s sound and Michael Jackson’s dance moves, which I find is a bit of an over-simplified way of looking at his music, but quite true. While he mainly playing songs from his latest album, Dev Hynes also surprised with song like “Bad Girls”, originally by Solange, as well as performing songs from his previous albums.
Progress in a music scene isn’t made in weeks, months or years; it’s ultimately made in little moments where audiences experience pure joy. As I looked around the room at points last Friday night, there were little moments like that being experienced everywhere.
As someone being introduced to Dev Hynes and his music through this performance, I felt that each song really blended into the next, creating an experience I didn’t want to end. But unfortunately all good things must come to an end and as the performance ended and we all made our way, I felt a mix of feelings, but mostly gratitude.
It’s hard and a risk to pull off shows like this and it’s hard for bands and artists to add tour dates to their schedules, and in the end, the real winners are the fans and the music lovers, all we have to do is show up. Progress in a music scene isn’t made in weeks, months or years; it’s ultimately made in little moments where audiences experience pure joy. As I looked around the room at points last Friday night, there were little moments like that being experienced everywhere.
The day after the show, an enthusiastic fan posted on the Facebook event “Best Show Of The Year!” Was it? Who knows. Was it unforgettable? Absolutely!
— Written by Abner Olivieri, contributed to be Jennifer Lackgren, images courtesy of HAVE YOU HEARD?