In music today, seemingly every band that has ever existed is reassembling living members and dusting off the old favourites to lucrative ends. Neneh Cherry’s solo comeback after 18 years, in contrast, was entirely on her own terms.
No one dared to yell for Buffalo Stance, her 1988 rap-pop classic, while she was busy rumbling through the contents of a new album that is dark, experimental and often hard going. She’s been working with edgy producer Four Tet and singer Robyn, making music that sounds most like the chilly art house dance of her fellow Swedes The Knife.
In an oppressive bunker club so small that the ice cube arrangements of the bar staff proved a constant distraction, she sang of depression, superstition and the death of her mother over stark beats and stabs of electronica. Her dayglo orange dress provided most of the brightness in a dimly lit room.
However, now on the cusp of 50, she hasn’t returned after all this time to punish her fans. She was all smiles on stage, saying: “I feel good. I feel at home,” and even laughing her way past an abandoned song and a faulty microphone. Her small backing band, Walthamstow brothers Tom and Ben Page of Rocketnumbernine brought complex rhythms and great energy to Blank Project and Out of the Black, which featured a remarkable electronic flurry at its centre.
Though tunefulness was clearly less important to her than the moody textures of her new music, in Weightless she had a bass-heavy, upbeat song that could work in the clubs. And she did get to Buffalo Stance in the end as a surprise encore, in heavily remixed form but with its wonderful chorus still intact. Not exactly a show of two halves, but one-tenth of it was pretty good fun.