Live Review: The Comet Is Coming @ Rickshaw Theatre – September 29th 2022

Conceptual jazz trio The Comet Is Coming burst onto the scene back in 2019 with an interstellar masterpiece “Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery” and the album has been a mainstay in my collection ever since. Like a tribe of human survivors scoring an apocalyptic future, or intergalactic travelling troubadours reinventing sound post-society, the exciting blend of analog jazz with inventive digital new-age sounds is like nothing else you’ve ever heard. Sporting fitting funky monikers, the band is made up of synthesist Danalogue, percussionist Betamax along with acclaimed saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, the three blend diverse talents into a harmoniously spiritual experience. Now they are touring with their new offering entitled “Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam” and Vancouverites were treated to an unforgettable glimpse into the talented musicians’ collective imagination this week at the Rickshaw Theatre.

The band took to the stage adorned in a range of fall-out wear, from robes to many-pocketed military jackets. After a couple of ambient pieces, the familiar fired -up synth beats of crowdpleaser “Summon the Fire” kicked in; that was the audience’s cue to get moving and rowdy like a dancehall in Zion. The banger gave way to a blistering sax solo by Shabaka, his signature repetitive yet random riffing. Amidst his frenzied, all-consuming rhapsody Dan dropped the bass and the next song began, creating a continuity across the set. Segues seemed almost improvised as the kinetically linked trio slithered from song to song.

As Shabaka launched into debut performances of tracks from the new album, he played with such force that one couldn’t help but imagine the reed spontaneously combusting from the force of his passion and almighty lung capacity. His superhuman talent on the instrument truly defies belief. The intense sax lines trade off with guttural synth riffing culminated to a vaguely eastern cyberpunk snarl. Betamax’s thrillingly and unpredictable drumming fills and flurries jammed chaotically until returning to each core refrain ringing out unbelievably loud and heavy.

A highlight of the set was new song “PYRAMIDS”, which features a satisfying synth line reminiscent of a retro video game. In its live performance it was easy to get lost in its dreamy phrasing and pacing. The new album evokes feelings of packed Berlin night clubs cleverly employing hard techno trance rhythms as a basis for creative, pummeling saxophonic exploration. Dan endeavoured to explain the intention of the new record as ‘ wondering what could be the thing that makes the best feeling amongst all the trillions of cells in the body. The transportive, kaleidoscopic music was certainly lighting up every cell in the body of spellbound viewers, nodding and gyrating along to the sound.

The stimulating evening came to an epic cosmic conclusion of sinister synth swirling and blinding lights. One final song rang out like a twisted carnivalesque jazz standard with rollicking drums, rolling organ lines, and meandering sax. At times feeling like it could go completely off the rails, but it resolved and crescendoed beautifully, perhaps easily summing up the night.

Review by Krysten Maier, photography by Michael Lockheart © 2022

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