South Park, Oxford
26th May 2018
There is apparently more than one Boney M line-up knocking around these days – each featuring at least one ‘original’ member (today’s being Maizie Williams) – which is fitting, given the studio-based, dancer-fronted foundations of the band. They’re a collection of songs, really; whoever did or didn’t sing on their records and mime at performances was immaterial, as was (and is today) any pretence of a backing band.
They still work extremely well as a franchise; their songs are so universal that even younger audience members know them, partly due to their catchiness (‘Hooray! Hooray! It’s a Holi-Holiday’ – once heard, never forgotten) and the sort of oddness you’d be hard-pressed to get away with these days (a song about a Russian monk, another composed of lyrics from Psalms, and ‘Brown Girl in the Ring’, anyone?). Even their up-tempo cover of ‘No Woman No Cry’ is welcomed. Cheesy, inoffensive, memorable yet throwaway pop to which everyone can sing along: the perfect warm-up for the acts to come.
Since their late-90s heyday, Morcheeba’s legacy has been a mood and a sound, and their mastery of these has made them perhaps better remembered than their lower-reaches-of the-top-40-dusting singles should allow. Skye Edwards’ exquisitely soulful voice floats and shimmers across South Park in a comforting and almost soporific way; it’s perfectly suited to their early evening timeslot (either side of 6:30) and the warm late spring weather.
Their slightly incongruous appearance in today’s Disco Day line-up probably has more to do with their new album release than anything else, but it works (aided by their quite-energetic-for-them cover of ‘Let’s Dance’, which puts their wah-wah pedal to good use); their trip-hop vibes are never anything less than pleasant, as the wide use of tracks such as today’s stand-out ‘The Sea’ in TV syncs testifies.
Given their age and reputation, the Jacksons could be forgiven for turning up for the bank transfer and going through the motions in a kind of worldwide decade-long Michael eulogy. Instead, we get a strong reminder they were a race-transcending phenomenon in their own right. Through coordinated dance moves to archive footage, sparkly military outfits of the style that Michael used to favour, Michael-esque breathing-friendly ‘point, grab and shuffle’ moves, and balanced lead vocal-sharing, they seem determined to honour the legacy of their late brother (‘Gone Too Soon’), are as enthusiastic about their music as they have ever appeared to be, and even throw in some lesser-known gems (such as the set-ending ‘State of Shock’) to please die-hard fans.
There is an element of self-indulgence – an over-long ‘Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)’ includes an impressive Marlon solo dancing spot, and we do get a (surprisingly not too bad) solo track from Tito and his guitar – and ‘I Want You Back’ and ‘ABC’ are sadly relegated to a medley, but it’s genuinely a privilege to celebrate talent and success like this in person.
Photos: © Kirsten Etheridge