Thundercat – Union Transfer – September 24, 2017
As Thundercat, Stephen Bruner is an extraordinary (and endearing) weirdo. His bass-playing ability rivals that of anyone playing the instrument. And if that’s not true on a technical level, his sense of melody and unique approach to making music put him in a rarefied space. On a six-string bass, which he often strums like a guitar, Thundercat alternates between inventive chords and rapid successions of notes. It’s a dizzying and inventive combination. On his latest album, Drunk, out earlier this year, he extends on his particular aesthetic blend of funk and jazz while singing oddball lyrics in a falsetto. Some of his pet obsessions are video games, psychedelia and his pet cat, Tron, who gets multiple name-checks throughout songs. This combination of serious musicianship and delightful goofing earns Thundercat more and more fans as he mines deeper into his sound.
On Sunday, the second of back-to-back shows at Union Transfer, Thundercat continued to delight with the breadth of his catalog and the joy of his personality. For the performance, he came out in Muay Thai boxing shorts that matched his dyed-red braids. The latter were put to good use as Bruner swung his head around with eyes closed and lips pursed while playing quick riffs. Those moments when he and the band played the musical equivalent of a high-speed chase were the most thrilling. It’s a high-wire act where each musician is forced to find the center within the musical digressions. But there was also pleasure in more straight-up renditions of some of his standout tracks, like the show-closing “Them Changes,” which Thundercat played while gesturing to the audience like Dave Chappelle in his famous Rick James sketch. That sense of humor, paired with his awesome abilities, makes him one of the best acts in live music. —Jared Levy | @Playtonic