Luke’s Alphabet Tour – S: Sun Ra Arkestra at London Barbican – 29th September 2012

By on Tuesday, 23rd October 2012 at 2:00 pm

Jazz isn’t something that appears much on the virtual pages of There Goes The Fear. Its influence can be heard in a lot of the indier records we review but we rarely investigate the history of the genre. Sun Ra and his Arkestra released their first album back in 1956, and over time the band evolved into the Solar Arkestra, Solar Myth Arkestra and Outer Space Arkestra, before settling as the Sun Ra Arkestra which tonight set the stage of the Barbican alight with their unique mindbending jazz fusion.

The theatre’s walls are awash with lava lamp imagery and a spirograph of colourful whirls courtesy of Mystic Lights. The 12 men on stage are met with rapturous applause from a sold out audience of all ages. Eyes are transfixed on the glittering, futuristic musicians led by Marshall Allen (who himself is strutting the stage with a sax), it’s a mesmerising joy to watch and experience. ‘Space is the Place’ kicks it up a notch with Marshal Allen’s gritty vocals wailing over the top of a seemingly uncontrollable mass of trombones, drums, saxophones and trumpets.

The first half of tonight’s performance comes to a close with ‘Angels And Demons’. Everyone is hypnotised and satisfied by the music either written or influenced by the man who travelled to Saturn and back. The second half shows no signs of a mood change as the Arkestra start the party now more drinks have been purchased.

A cover of Charlie Chaplin‘s ‘Smile’ is a brilliant addition for a brief singalong – now a staple of the Arkestra’s setlist. The performance pushes on until it reaches its natural conclusion of saxophonists, trombonists and everyone else on their feet dancing and marching around the stage, off the stage, into the audience, out into the foyer and back into the theatre again while still playing. Everyone is on their feet and boogieing on down to some amazing scenes of the legendary experimental jazz pioneers. Almost two and a half hours of cosmic jazz is enough to melt the mind, but firmly create a smile on everyone’s face.

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