Rudimental at U St Music Hall

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Saumya Gulati: Rudimental’s concert was interesting right off the bat because there were no openers. I liked the idea that if you’re going to see Rudimental, that’s exactly what you’re going to get—nothing more and nothing less. That being said, we did have to wait close to an hour for them to come out and there was an awkward vibe because people didn’t know what to do with themselves. Some people were awkwardly bobbing their heads up and down while others stood around and there was a group of guys raging to the background music. Despite an awkward wait while the band hadn’t arrived yet, you could still tell that the crowd was hyped.

Si Chen: Rudimental definitely knew how to create an entrance. After flashing lights and tribal rhythms gave way to darkness and an almost military fanfare (not unlike Vampire Weekend’s setup), they filed onto U St Music Hall’s small stage. Their live performance was much larger than the original quartet–featuring two female vocalists, another male vocalist, trumpet, drums, a synth and a keyboard, guitar, and a talkbox. Once they came on stage, they started the concert with “Give You Up”, creating a very R&B vibe that continued throughout the concert. They spanned several different genres, which would have been difficult to tie together, but the R&B quality of the singer’s voices and the familiar DnB rhythm tied the atmosphere together nicely.

Saumya: The smooth R&B vibe continued with the rendition of “Spoons” sung by Thomas Jules and Ann-Marie. The vocals on the original track are sung by Syron and MNEK, but Jules and Ann Marie’s life performance showed some great chemistry that easily carried the song. Their voices were fluid and complemented the beat of the song. Unlike some of the other songs, “Spoons” gave the vocalists a little more freedom to add their own twist to the song and show off their vocal talent.

Si: They also started “Spoons” off with the rhythm played on actual spoons by Amir Amor, which I thought was a fun little touch. That easily transitioned into “Baby”, sung by Sinead Harnett and MNEK on the album. Their performance of the song really embodied what their entire set showed—a concentration on music, despite the connotations that electronic music usually bring. There were, of course, danceable rhythms, but they didn’t give into the masses’ demand for heavy drops that are usually associated with electronic music.

Saumya: Although the show began with more of a chill vibe, Rudimental followed the two smooth songs with their more popular track “Not Giving In”. The energetic and well-produced single got the crowd going. Nobody knows what the song means exactly, because it’s broad enough of a subject to apply to a multitude of things, but it’s definitely provocative. The live version, in comparison to the electronic track, saw the use of drums and guitars to emphasize the strong beats and drops. The drums and guitars were not the only instruments to be used; Rudimental demonstrated the versatility of the trumpet, successfully incorporating it into the edgy performance.

Si: “Not Giving In” is definitely one of their more well-known songs (over 15 million plays on Youtube) and it showed in the crowd response. The lead-up of the DnB drum rhythms to drops emphasized by Newman and Clare’s strong vocals transitioned well to the live performance. The three vocalists who replaced New man and Clare were able to take the mantle successfully, sounding like soloists in their own right while not overpowering the drummer’s intense rhythms. It was in this song that the drummer really shined—even though his rhythms were rather repetitive throughout the entire song, he infused an energy into the song that got the crowd going.

Saumya: “Hell Could Freeze” was placed at a great spot in the setlist to cool the crowd down before hyping it back up with “Free” and “Feel The Love”. Rudimental recently released a remix of “Free” with Nas that everyone should check out. Ella Eyre did a great job of covering Emili Sandé’s part in the song, her powerful vocals hit all of the right spots. This was one of my favorites in the entire concert, the repetitive verses worked to their advantage in the performance.

Si: After they left the stage, they indulged the audience with three encore songs. “Waiting All Night”, the last of the three, really brought the crowd together and everyone was excitedly singing along. Although a lot of their songs revolve around deep emotions, their live performance of “Waiting All Night” made people much less inhibited, allowing them to sing along “Tell me that you need me!”. It was a purgative experience and you could tell that while the song was fun, it was also such a stress-reliever. It was a great note to finish the concert off on and they exited to deafening applause.

Saumya: After listening to their collaboration with Alex Clare, I had definitely been a huge fan of Rudimental. Heading into the concert, I was expecting a typical live DJ set rather than the amazing live show they had put on. Throughout the concert, Rudimental proved to the audience that they were capable of binding all genres of music together over their electronic foundation. Starting off with rock tones, moving onto R&B and then adding a bit of Jazz, they proved to be extremely versatile. Rudimental used all of their tools to their benefit, providing a different and original experience with the use of drums, guitars and trumpet (my personal favorite) without forgetting the synth and keyboard, the backbones of their music. Rudimental tapped into a new kind of electronic music that can be seen as a platform for mixing all genres together. They have an ear for vocals, shown in their choice of live vocalists Ella Eyre, Ann-Marie and Thomas Jules, as well as recording artists such as John Newman whom they have collaborated with. There is an understanding that the production of music can be used as a form to combine all genres and collaborate rather than stick to one.

Si: I was really eager to see how Rudimental would be able to carry their songs over into a live performance without all of their featured artists. They work with some of the best singers in the UK music industry–everyone from Emeli Sandé to Alex Clare to John Newman–and they were able to carry the vocals with some great talent scouting. Jules, Ann-Marie, and Ella were really seamless in their singing, showing off their charisma in duets while clearly having the time of their lives as they performed. The drummer’s ability to keep a steady DnB beat without being overbearing was impressive and really set a groove for the crowd. Their live performance really emphasized their influences, ranging from UK garage to Afro-Caribbean music, and managed to combine these varying influences without muddling their music or overcomplicating it. Above all, Rudimental knows how to stick to their guns while still appeasing their audience’s needs in a live show. For a concert on a Tuesday night, they were able to keep their event succinct, yet packed with energy, and provide aspects of a live band and electronic aspects that appealed to a wide audience. Although their songs feature repetitive rhythms and a few lines of lyrics emphasized and repeated throughout the song, they manage to keep it lively by always putting a new spin on each repetition, showing a lot more soul. They executed the live show with panache, exceeding our expectations in terms of what electronic-based bands should be able to do live and setting the bar higher for the quality of live performances by DnB bands.

–Si Chen and Saumya Gulati

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