Edbl & Friends: A Group Made of Music
Updated: Jan 8
It wasn’t once, but twice, that Majoris Music got the Edbl experience during his recent UK tour. It could’ve easily been more, given the quality of the both nights; and indeed will be when Ed & Friends hit the road again. It was one of those gigs where the levels left seeing the artist again in no doubt.
This time, the aforementioned ‘friends’ included both Yakul and Zach Said. Having such forces of talent as the supports speaks right to the allure of the Edbl experience - Yakul’s frontman, James Berkley, and Zach have both collaborated with Ed in the studio to release some truly fantastic material. This power and skill in collaboration makes up a significant part of the Edbl experience, and you could feel this USP in full force from the start.
Yakul came first and for both nights really impressed. It became the perfect sound to open because the music itself became very transportative, at times turning Nu-Jazz (or, as Yakul have dubbed it, ‘future soul’) into Nu-Jazz-Psychedelia. Nu-Jazz-Future-Psychedelic-Soul, if you wanted to have fun with it. Which they did.
The electronic breakdowns on a hazy stage with multicoloured strobe lighting genuinely felt of - perhaps an extension of - the musical world that they were offering. In the audience you were gently swept into an invitation it was hard to say no to.
Some of the individual musicality on display was excellent, too. At times you could see James Berkeley - fronting the band and pursuing a solo venture that kicked off with Edbl too - playing multiple instruments in tandem, often having to physically swivel on his chair to get to the other side of his musical spaceship-esque control centre of keys, knobs and buttons. All whilst maintaining the really strong fluidity of the songs.
Together it was a sound and show where the constituent parts just fit very neatly together. It looked, sounded and felt like a recognisably good set without the need for bells and whistles. For Yakul it was unapologetically and humbly their own, sharing it with some fans that were made anew without a doubt.
And then came to the stage Zach Said. Seeing Zach live was a big moment for Majoris, with some of his music making our Spotify Wrapped from as far back as 2019, vividly defining those moments in life, etching itself as the soundtrack.
We spoke to Zach before the first Brighton show and what stuck out was this overriding sense of coolness at the situation in front of him. The prospect of going on stage was exactly the same as the prospect of something like getting a drink with friends. On stage, this confidence really nicely translated. It was at all times fun, warm, and humorous.
During the set what translated further was this brilliant sense of the nonchalant - he was fully clear in communicating through his performance that the music would instigate a good time and that his job was to be the medium through which that happened.
Through that mediumship came this excellent quality as a performer of channelling the surrounding elements of the songs and crowd right into the delivery that we all got to see. Slowed down and saucy during the songs of lust & love - to powerful, jumpy and gospel during the higher energy parts of the setlist. You could feel at all times that Zach and the band felt the music too, and so was created this circular economy of music coming from him, out through the monitors, and then straight back into him through feeling and energy. This sort of cycle only continues to grow, and so was put together an almighty infectious performance not just warming the crowd, but beautifully boiling it to the brim.
And with that heat, came the main event.
There are many genuine joys of the Edbl live show: the performance, for example, somehow taking a recorded discography known for its near-perfect, very developed sound, and making it sound even better. The risk being zero that his recorded discography would be done an injustice because of the immense quality of performance. The songs live having an edge that sets them apart from his so clean and sort of untouchable studio sound.
They go on, but being conscious of these things during the show, as an audience member, made it feel that the things being delivered in that room occupied its very own space in a level above the essential qualities of what we know to be live music.
That, in so many cases, could reasonably describe the project of Edbl - simply a level above.
Even at the first show every beat was perfectly placed. Without the natural warm up from the first few nights of a tour, that’s impressive. A sustained interaction with the music of Edbl demonstrates, though, that he doesn’t miss - so this wasn’t entirely surprising. It’s even better when you realise that it was, at the end of it all, something very impressive in spite of that.
There was a setlist of emotional twists and turns, but still the ‘flow’ of the show felt delicately done and intensely right. It was okay to want to dance and then to think about something deep, because the music was just that good. It was actively supplementary yet still the central focus. A live show programmed to perfection was almost the result of the love Ed has for music itself, saying when speaking to us that “live music is what got me into music”, and bringing in his background of writing and production made putting on a show “the coming together of my favourite worlds”.
The London show specifically had this real air about it. A midweek gig in the Big Smoke isn’t an easy thing. And yet it felt like they met the moment. The show marked its own moment. It didn’t rise to the occasion but essentially became the occasion itself, very comfortable in the upper heights of the city’s circuit. Ed again reflected with us that “one of my favourite things about the whole year was getting to bring the Edbl to stage for the first time”. What a first it was.
Part of that was the individual talent of Ed as a musician really came out on the stage, where it can sometimes get forgotten in a discography of faultless production and polish through your speaker. You find that every bone in his body becomes temporarily made of music and speaks to people in a language understood very clearly.
There were multiple, intense guitar solos which saw Ed step up to the front of the stage and rip some serious noise from the strings he symbiotically partnered with through the tips of his fingers. Literally even; on the first show of the tour he felt this very moment so much that one of the strings sadly became a working string no longer. He joked about getting too into it, unknowingly foreshadowing what came to be an eventual highlight of the performances: staggering positive energy from start until the very finish.
And this gloss of polish present in pretty much all other parts of the shows emanated from the band, too. Pretty much every single beat of the gig came into the audience and was internally moulded into this beautifully pristine and fluid malleable flow of noise able to be characterised only by its quality of sounding so good. Their very first chords injected into the crowd this awesome wave of movement and energy. They got the music right down into specific hand movements that controlled the sound two or three beats ahead. They were synchronous. Moments of improv looked to be meticulously constructed because of how graceful and well intertwined they were, even if they were just sharing a moment of music together.
In much the same way, there was an element of the show that also showed the feature of Edbl to be a very privileged musical place to be. Both in the studio and now on stage, he provides through collaboration access into a place of music that radiates through it, in oozes, the translation of a mind constructed by music. It quickly became a point of appreciation during the shows that Ed was as comfortable giving the stage to his features as he was owning it himself. It became for the people in a position to be given the stage of Edbl to do something special with it; the allure of why Edbl marks his own space in music so strongly in the first place.
For the many vocalists that Ed collaborates with in the studio who couldn’t make it to the shows, Jay Alexzander - a key part of every single night of the tour, became the song. Not purely in the sense that he filled in, but more so that he just seemed to so naturally become one with the music and let the songs guide him into a place where he didn’t just provide vocals but instead became a core quality and embodiment of the music itself. Something about the music was him as much as something about him was the music, and there was something so gratifying about someone ostensibly using the craft they were gifted with to such good effect. A real talent shone blindingly through, and we’re so excited to see what comes next. We hear something special may just be on the way.
During his London show, the last show of the tour, Ed was reflecting and mistakenly referenced the run to be a ‘world tour’. Before he could finish correcting himself, the audience - at the close of the show loyal by way of the experience they just had - expanded endlessly in noise to stop the correction and leave it at that. It was a brief but lasting moment because in it contained something really special that the show brought about: Edbl’s unending humility even in the face of his own unworldly success of music, and his audience willing him on to recognise that thing as being right in front of him. Of them, perhaps.
He regularly interrupted his show with notions of not being able to believe it, and you could feel the reciprocity of love from people - both from those that knew the music and those who were getting their first tastes. He said “I’m still trying to pinch myself that it happened - it still doesn’t feel real that I toured the UK with my own material”.
The shows were that subtle message as to why it is him that fronts all of this. A unique form of understated brilliance so perfectly stated because of its understatement.
The resulting feeling from the show, given how the people on stage did what they did, was that the inevitable good time you had was directly and explicitly shared with them too; this retrospection perhaps the most clear indicator of the real and raring presence of that special relationship between the stage and audience. Each song served as a statement to this - a clear but often unsaid message that there was something really special going on.
Good shows aren’t just singular entities. They’re stories of collaboration, and of inspiration, and of achievement. The Edbl show was the novella that became a classic, with a plot that, surely, couldn’t get any better than this.