The Comet Is Coming live in London: a mystical, mind-muddling night with the apocalyptic neo-jazz futurists

London, O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, December 5, 2019

There are big floodlights facing the audience for The Comet Is Coming at the O2 in Shepherd’s Bush, and maybe two tracks in, they decide to blind us. “Maybe” feels like the operative word, as the three-piece’s set is loose and indulgent, letting neat recordings overflow for as long as the trio can physically keep up onstage. So, yeah, it goes on for a while.

King Shabaka, Danalogue and Betamax regally man the saxophone, keyboard and drums respectively. They’re a monstrously talented trio, and each musician’s stance seldom changes throughout the show. King Shabaka physically coils over his instrument, embodying something between a scream of pain and extreme pleasure. Danalogue looks so violently involved with his synths that it’s a fear he could knock himself out head-banging. Betamax is more restrained, as a character, but his performing contribution is anything but. He keeps his head down while the astronomical speed of his hands and feet sets the pace on snare, bass drums and tom-toms.

The performance in this show is more alarming than it is entertaining. They embrace the idea of live jazz letting its musicians riff and seeing how far they can go – and it’s sometimes a touch too far here for fans waiting for specific hooks from their recorded output. The Comet opt more for material that shows off their fiery agenda than tracks that invite fans to have a dance.

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There are two clear moments of that, though – during which middle-aged men start doing the twist, and metal heads start chanting the sax hook of ‘Summon the Fire’ like it’s a football anthem. 

The second dance moment comes, of course, from ‘Do The Milky Way’. Red and yellow lights scatter, interspersed with strobes that jump as much as the crowd. 

Talking is kept to a minimum – a singer comes on stage to deliver a sermon, to tell us the comet is coming, that our flock has risen and that skyscrapers are falling, but then he leaves and lets the music speak once more. It’s always a stubbornly mystical time with The Comet. “13 cataclysmic events have occurred, and we’re in the sweet spot. Alright?”, Danalogue explains. Naturally, he gives a little nudge to next week’s duty. “I say it’s a lucky phase, but we are ruled by privileged Etonian scum. We do have a chance to sort that out though, don’t we? Do enjoy that when you do it.”

The band’s staunch belief in their mission, in the cosmic warning of the apocalypse on its way to us, makes for an enthralling evening. It’s as complex and cacophonous as possible, an experience felt deep in the sternum, where few other artists can reach.

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