It could have gone one or two ways at the Mermaid Theatre tonight. Mixing together every colour of the spectrum on one pallet either creates a soulless black or an intricate rainbow. On this occasion, luckily for the Bees, it is the latter, and their blend of reggae, psychedelic rock, Americana, and swing blurs gloriously into all encompassing good time hybrid. Capped with exhilarating vocals from at least four different lead singers, including founders Aaron Fletcher and Paul Butler, the Bees are a living, breathing master-class in accomplished, intelligent entertainment. Their show tonight is a celebration of their career to date and is broken down into two sets. The first is a triumphant performance of their most recent album, ‘Octopus’, and the second a collection of their greatest hits. Indeed it appears the interval has been quietly introduced to allow the audience, and the band, to scuttle out for a sly cigarette in between.

Opening with ‘Love In The Harbor’ the group play the whole of 'Octopus' through without respite. After ‘Got To Let Go’ a member of the audience calls out to inform the crowd that the Bees are the “best thing ever to happen to the music industry” and it’s difficult not to agree with him.
There is an effortless fluidity to the group's playing and their sound is seems to be built from Lego blocks; ever changing shapes of colour that continuously reorganize and mutate to create a hundred different combinations. As such each track is different from the last; one second highlighting bravura trumpet playing, the next an exquisitely controlled guitar solo and the next a simple maraca. The group creates space for each other member to shine in turn and one comparison would be to Bertolt Brecht’s ideas of ensemble acting. There are no stars and each performer is given an opportunity to dazzle, to the benefit of the whole.

If the first show was proficient the second was euphoric. The Bees have a large, well heeled following and this expensive venue is filled to capacity tonight. These passionate fans offered virtually fanatical support and are rewarded accordingly. First up is ‘Punchbag’, the first track on the groups debut ‘Sunshine Hit Me’, and whilst it is greeted warmly ‘A Minha Menina’ (the Os Mutantes cover that did a great deal to raise their profile when it was included in a car advert) is the first to get the crowd to rise out of their seats and somewhat awkwardly start to dance. The demographic is thus revealed to be rather heavily suits and cashmere, perhaps consisting of those who appreciate a certain depth of ability over the fickle trends of fashion, but the spirit is vibrant and festive. An instrumental version of ‘The Russian’ allows an opportunity for the group to thank the crowd for their extraordinary participation, before the climatic ‘Chicken Payback’, again used in a commercial, draws the show to a glorious finale.

With the support and skill on show tonight it is difficult to fathom the logic behind EMI’s decision to terminate the group’s contract but on the evidence presented this evening they will have no trouble finding a new home. The Bees are a band with a bright future.

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Commenting On: Mermaid Theatre, 23/7/2007 - Bees

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