Gilles Peterson bounded about the stage, atop speakers and in the boxes of London's KOKO last Saturday night, beaming uncontrollably from ear to ear about the eclectic selection of artists he'd once again amassed for his annual Worldwide Awards ceremony. His energy and enthusiasm for the music is infectious, and makes any event he's curating feel like something so much more than the sum of his parts. A living legend, make no mistake.
This year's lineup was markedly less electronic than in previous years, but there was still a fair bit on offer. Mala In Cuba came roaring to life, a decidedly more engrossing affair than the Croydon-meets-Havana dubstep/rumba record that this project begat (at least in this reviewer's opinion). The clash of cultures worked well in a live context, the sound—and importantly the sight—of rolling percussion and pianist Roberto Foncesca's expansive jazz stylings meshed formidably with Mala's brooding backbones. What often fell flat on record filled the cavernous room with an atmosphere that was neither too foreboding or too noodly, and the tight 30-minute set felt like the right length to keep attentions sharp. It's just the kind of intriguing juxtaposition between the electronic and organic that Peterson is known for.
Black Acre's Romare brought a mixed bag of soulful flavours old and new with plenty of nods to the past, while the Worldwide family's incredible LeftO once again showed himself to be one of the most versatile and electrifying DJs around. He's the kind of selector who deserves to be famous for his skills on the decks alone (nigh on impossible to achieve these days) and his mini sets across the night filled in the gaps between the live shows perfectly. A garagey interlude featuring Zed Bias' "Neighbourhood" and new Shadow Child and Tymer banger "23" was particularly fiery, amping things after a relatively slow start to the night.
UK pop and soul legend Neneh Cherry performed with Rocketnumbernine, following on from her album on Smalltown Supersound with The Thing last year. Her set sounded like an amalgamation of Massive Attack and Zero 7 at its best, but a meandering, droning version of Little Dragon towards its conclusion. That said, it had its moments, and it was inspiring to see a longtime legend engaging with challenging electronic music and continue to experiment this far into her career.
The awards part of the night was a wisely succinct matter, with the likes of Brainfeeder and LV picking up accolades (among many others). Disappointingly, the incredible Andrew Ashong, who picked up the publicly-voted award for Track of the Year for his gorgeous "Flowers" with Theo Parrish, was taken off the bill due to a "technical problem," and what should have been one of the highlights of the night failed to materialise. A real shame, but as always, Peterson's smorgasbord of music from across the globe was still a well-balanced, nutritious and filling affair.