Theo Parrish review - stripping songs back to their jazz, funk and soul roots

Barbican, London
Detroit's deep-house maverick reworks his music with a live band, ensuring nobody is left on their seats

Theo Parrish is known for being many things: a deep-house connoisseur, linchpin of Detroit's "third wave" of electronic music producers and a genre-hopping DJ partial to playing eight-hour sets among them. Jam bandleader, however, isn't usually on the list. Tonight, though, Parrish casts himself as alter ego "Teddy" to see whether he can strip releases from his Sound Signature label back to their jazz, funk and soul roots, play them with a live band, and make the audience "get down". It's perhaps no easy feat in the Barbican's reverential amphitheatre, but Parrish has a few tricks up his camo-print sleeve.

Firstly, the eight-strong lineup includes excellent players such as Public Enemy guitarist Duminie DePorres, drummer Myele Manzanza (son of Afrobeat virtuoso Sam Manzana) and Funkadelic collaborator Amp Fiddler on keyboard/being a dude in tracksuit bottoms/bow-tie duties. Secondly, far from being an acid-jazz circle jerk, four incredible house dancers pop, lock and drop across the stage to help capture the uplifting essence of Parrish's music.

They begin with Top of the World by 70s US outfit Brass Construction – which Parrish sampled for popular production Lake Shore Drive with his Detroit contemporary, Moodymann – followed by a syrupy interpretation of Stevie Wonder's Too High. As the warm thud of early Parrish number Walking Thru the Sky comes in next, there's no one left in their seat. New track Footwork is a highlight, its repetitive chant of "let me see your footwork" willing you to, as Pharrell would say, lose yourself to dance. Unreleased song Ah – which Parrish announces was written with Marcellus Pittman – meanwhile, is quite a trip, floating off into spoken word and endless cosmic noodling as the faint whiff of incense wafts through the air.

The performance isn't perfect. There are some loose improv sections and vocals often so high in the mix that they sound like six Leona Lewises attempting to shatter glass. But Theo could probably perform a one-man kazoo show and it would still have the crowd roaring with joy. And as the stage fills up for the encore – a cover of rare disco-soul record Ain't No Need by Skye – the audience spring to their feet once more in unison. Teddy's Get Down? More like Teddy's Get the Hell Up.


Kate Hutchinson

The GuardianTramp

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