If you’ve been to as many rock concerts as I have, you know the standard procedure: Crowd trickles in, finds their seats, perhaps mingles in the lobby chatting with friends or standing in line to order drinks, then casually waits for the artist or band to take the stage. The crowd at The Moore Theatre on Monday, October 17th was different though, and I witnessed something I hadn’t seen or felt for a very long time: unbridled anticipation.
The mostly post-40-year-old crowd was loud even before Morcheeba hit the stage. The “buzz” was palpable even in the lobby. It started to feel like everyone was there because they really loved Morcheeba’s music, and perhaps lead singer Skye Edwards, as opposed to just going to a show because their friends had an extra ticket. I could sense love, eagerness, yearning, and nervous energy abound, and once the band hit the stage, they were hit with a wave of emotion that nearly knocked them out of their shoes.
Morcheeba formed in the UK in the mid-90s when brothers Paul and Ross Godfrey recruited Skye Edwards to sing. The Godfrey brothers were multi-instrumentalists who’d been writing music influenced by hip-hop and psychedelic rock, and Edwards was already singing and playing guitar in a funk band. When they came together to form Morcheeba and started recording, their music morphed into a smooth sound that’s been called trip-hop, downbeat, chill, and electro-pop. Their 1998 album Big Calm contained two of their best-known songs; “The Sea” and “Part of the Process”, which lead to platinum certification in the UK and gold in many other countries. They’ve released 10 albums over the past twenty-five years, and their stop in Seattle was part of a three-week U.S. tour to promote their latest release Blackest Blue, which is one of their strongest efforts to-date.
I figured they’d play “The Sea” as part of their encore, but when the house lights went down, the unmistakable, descending wah-wah guitar intro floated from the stage. Edwards emerged from the smoky darkness, and as she sang “Flocking to the sea, crowds of people wait for me,” a torrent of applause and shouts of approval filled The Moore. When the song had finished, an increasing level of shouts and screams from the crowd overwhelmed the band. Skye reacted by saying, “Oh my god!” as she laughed. Bassist Steve Gordon (Skye’s husband) looked over at guitarist Ross Godfrey with a smile and a look of bewilderment.
Their second song “Friction” was also from the Big Calm record, which was followed by “Otherwise” from 2002’s Charango. As the audience’s mania continued, Ross stepped to the mic and said, “What’s wrong with you people? Don’t you know it’s a Monday night? You people are crazy!”
“Never An Easy Way” from their 1996 debut Who Can You Trust was followed by “Sounds of Blue” from their latest release Blackest Blue, and by this point half of the people on the main level had abandoned their seats and rushed to the stage, reaching up to Edwards like she was their salvation. “I can’t believe this, Seattle! This is the last stop of our three-week tour of the States, and you people are the mentalist!” (British slang for crazy), she said.
Throughout the set, the band was amazingly tight, as you’d imagine a band would be at the end of a tour. Drummer Jaega McKenna-Gordon (Edwards’ son) held things together with a solid beat and minimal fills that made me think of Ringo. Keyboardist Dom Pipkin provided subtle color and shape that weaved through the songs like wispy tendrils that kept an air of mystery afloat. Ross Godfrey was an impressive guitarist who could go from mind-blowing riffs to moody textures to petite melodies in the space of a minute. And Steve Gordon’s understated bass kept a mellow groove when needed, or a forceful kick when the tempo rose.
Skye Edwards was truly amazing. Dressed in a black dress and hat, she exuded grace, strength, charisma, charm, and joy. Her beautiful, lilting voice hit every note with confidence, and it was fun to watch her in an atmosphere she wasn’t used to as she responded with laughter and smiles, and visits to the other band members to share her excitement.
Ross hoisted a white cup in the air and said, “You know you’re in Seattle when you’re drinking tequila from a Starbucks cup!”
The band played all of their most loved songs, including “Part Of the Process”, “Blood Like Lemonade” and “Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day”, as well as more selections from Blackest Blue including “The Moon”, and “Oh Oh Yeah”, during which Edwards led the crowd in a singalong.
“Isn’t this fun?!” she asked. “We haven’t had a crowd behave like this in ages, and I really thought it would take five years after the Covid situation to get to this place again. But here we are, all in the same room and feeling the same thing! It’s been too long!!”
Morcheeba ended the night with “Blindfold” from Big Calm, an archetypal Morcheeba song that defines trip-hop:
“You guys have been amazing,” Ross shouted while holding his guitar above his head, “Absolutely the best crowd of the tour. Thank you so much! We love you!”
I had to wonder what the other audiences had been like for the previous three weeks. Yes, a lot of Morcheeba’s songs are mellow, and some might even call it bedroom music. Did most audiences just stay in their seats and applaud politely after each song? I’m guessing they did.
I’m just glad that I saw them in Seattle, where an adoring crowd showered Morcheeba with the appreciation they deserve. Indeed, it’s been too long.
Here is the video for “Sounds Of Blue” off Blackest Blue: