NITIN SAWHNEY The Lowry, Salford 19 July 2003
Providing ample evidence that the good folk who run Salford's spectacular Lowry venue (things have changed in the dirty old town since my student days) would find challenge in organising a dipsomaniacs' conference in a brewery, the news that Mr Sawhney's performance would be postponed for 24 hours was first broken to us by nearby car park staff, which somewhat aggrieved my companions who had driven up from the other end of the country for the gig. Nevertheless, duly reassembled the next evening, and with an admittedly stunning front row vantage point, Nitin proved his immaculate, near-seamless tumble of influences was almost worth the wait.
Imagine if Massive Attack's music actually spanned some of the points between and beyond that band's two chief geographical influences, Bristol and Jamaica, and you might be on your way to appreciating Nitin Sawhney's music. It's world music, truly, where spiritual Asian keening nudges up against flamenco flourishes and frantic African percussion, but served up with just enough coffee table appeal to prevent the whole from tumbling over into some kind of transglobal jumble sale. Despite having only a glancing acquaintance with the man's work (in the form of the rather fine "Prophesy" album, from which a toughened up "Sunset" and a radically different interpretation of the title track were aired tonight) I found it an interesting, occasionally dazzling set, Sawhney playing keyboards and occasional, impressive, guitar and backed by a hard-working quartet and trio of vocalists. Even the visuals, controlled by a capped chap with a laptop to the side of the stage, were impressive, overlaying live images of the performers on stage with archive footage and animation. My one musical criticism would be that, having summoned up a groove of crushing, seemingly indomitable power, he and the band seemed content to let it just dribble away into nothingness: compare and contrast with Massive Attack launching into the heavy metal breakdown of "Group 4" in concert, when the tension is cranked higher and higher until it seems as if heads might explode. And, despite having the justifiable excuse of his show being part of the wider annual Worldport festival and consequently being squeezed by time constraints if I were a greater Sawhney enthusiast I might feel a little short-changed by a set that barely broke the 75 minute barrier. Nevertheless, a worthwhile night out, despite the organisational setbacks encountered