Islington Assembly Hall, 7th April
Curious thing, predictability.
It has a unpredictable tendency to surprise you when you most expect it. Let me paint a picture. It’s Friday. It’s payday. The spring-time sunshine sinks into Upper Street’s bustling horizon, striking the North London sky with an extraordinarily luminous mauve. Everything seems perfect when I bowl up to the bouncers at Islington Assembly Hall. A cube-shaped monster demands ID and finds two Bombay Bad Boy Pot Noodles in my bag.
“You’re fucking hardcore mate… Have good night.”
Fleetingly bemused and confused, I trundle into the main hall with Ezra Collective already flaring up the occasion with pacey interludes of their own sonic blend of afro-beat and funky attire. Both hemisphere’s of my brain high-five each other for everything previous, present and what’s to come. For Nubiyan Twist were surely going to put that fat juicy cherry on top of my towering cake.
It’s just all too predictable.
The venue swells with more cheery fans with maracas in their pants. Under a belt of blue, the band arrive to an already jiving crowd. Percussion thuds under our feet. Brass bleats through our hair. Guitar chords and keys tickle each other over a robust, dub-heavy bass-line.
The eighteen-legged Leeds procession warm up with a fine concoction of afro-jazz beats and rhythmic funk. Hips-a-swaying and feet-a-tapping; the crowd know what’s coming. She enters stage-left; drink in hand, afro dangling one side of her face.
Nubiya Brandon is more than just a front-woman to complete a ten-piece on stage. She is the beating heart of the group. Turning to face her band-mates, her arms flail in sync with every beat, break and drop like a dub conductor commanding the musicians into place. The music flows through her and she is acutely in tune with every instrument. At one point, she bows before the horn quartet gradually raising her hands to tease an explosion of sound which has us all shimmying that Friday feeling.
How marvellously predictable.
Without further ado, Nubiyan Twist turn through a collect of tracks from their 2015 self-titled release. From the trippy hip hop bars of ‘Work House’ to the dub wonders of ‘Hypnotised’, Nubiya Brandon brandishes an array of vocal ability all of which boasts itself in ‘Figure Numatic’. Her rolling raps and and soulful singing pave way for a sexy brass interlude before Tom Excell shreds his guitar in Finn Booth’s drumming company.
The night goes on and their set marches through Fela Kuti tributes, reverberated percussion solos and a guest appearance by K.O.G of the Zongo Brigade as part of Nubiyan Twist’s new single: ‘Dance Inna London/All The Pieces’.
“Listen how sick are these guys though…? As we say in Africa… ‘FFFFFFFFUCKING HELL!’”
From nowhere, he rasps a rowdy vocal to ying Brandon’s yang, dancing on stage with the only kind of dancing an African brother can get away with. As we say in Essex… ‘Fair play, mate’.
The band begin having more fun amongst themselves with the horn ensemble throwing their own party, swaying with smiles felt throughout the hall. The entire stage wrong-foot crowd dancers by sudden switches in tempo. They start. Then stop. Then start-stop. Start-stop-start. Stop. And then start again.
Wildly unpredictable stuff. We just don’t see it coming.
More and more audience members jump on the shoulders of their sturdy brethren like a Glastonbury headline act. Pilo Adami has a go with the vocals as Brandon, one by one, calls for applause for each band member who have by all accounts given us all a great Friday night out.
A finale of cheers ends with a band member thanking us and reminding himself that this is their biggest gig to date. And when you reel off influences such as Herbie Hancock, J Dilla & Nat King Cole – it seems too predictable to say that the future for Nubiyan Twist and their fun-filled live shows will grow into legendary status.
But that’s the funny thing about predictability, you see. Like a Bombay Bad Boy Pot Noodle, a Nubiyan Twist live act is everything you’d expect it to be: well-packaged, wholly satisfying and addictively tasty. And once it’s over, guaranteed, you’ll be begging for more.