October 2, 2017
Thundercat played Brooklyn Steel
Thundercat is having a banner year due, in part, to the success of his latest record, Drunk. After playing the main stage at this year's Afropunk festival, he returned for two shows at Brooklyn Steel.
Stephen Bruner has been making music for the better part of the new millennium, playing on records for the likes of Childish Gambino, Kamasi Washington, Erykah Badu, Flying Lotus, and Kendrick Lamar, however on his first solo record in four years, the man known as Thundercat has finally been given the solo attention he deserves. As a virtuoso on the bass, Bruner is an absolute sensation to witness on stage. His fingers scramble across his fretboard with dexterity and finesse unlike many others in the game and his complex rhythms seem to somehow become even more impressive and hypnotic live. His music fuses together the intense time signatures of jazz with the futurism of funk and it's no wonder he was able to get yacht-rock greats Michael McDonald and Kenny Logins to appear on his recent record. At just nearly two hours, it was a long night indeed and it took Thundercat until the back-half of the set to really hit his stride. On record, his songs are tight and compact, but live he lets the music take on a new life and really just jams. It's clear that not everything resulted in an improvised groove session, but there were certainly moments where it felt like the jam might be getting the best of each track. Eccentricity is key and it was impressive, to say the least, watching the band riff on each other's energy and really elevate each song with new life, but at times it felt a tad over the top. With minimal banter between songs, it was a long show with every song taking on its own spiritual adventure. There was no doubt that the talent possessed by each musician onstage was next level, but at times it seemed like things could've been reeled in, just a touch, to help maintain focus and not let tracks take on a life of their own. Even as the jams did seem a bit excessive, fan favorites like "Tokyo" and "3 AM' still saw explosive reactions from the crowd and the final number of "Them Changes" was by far the funkiest moment of the night and one that saw the audience really let loose and embrace the vibrant qualities that Thundercat and company had been delivering all night long. While Thundercat has paid his dues and risen through the ranks by playing on his contemporaries hits, seeing him relish in his own spotlight feels so well deserved. After waiting in the wings for so long, Thundercat is proving that he can flex his own creative muscles and deliver something as passionate and purposeful as his peers.