Review: Benga @ Sankeys – March 9

By Sophia Rahman

The reigning king of dubstep returned to rule his throne at Sankeys on Friday.

The rush and crush as Benga took to the decks was testament to the reputation the dub pioneer has earned over the last decade. The sweat dripping from the ceiling an hour later proved he did not disappoint.

Well-honed from a massive US tour with partner-in-crime Skream, and now a few nights in to his first solo UK tour, this was sure to be a night to remember. Sure enough, from the opening rhythms of the set, Benga’s token techno-flavoured dub rocked the house.

With pounding kick drums, speedy hoover synths, sub-house melodies and body-slamming stuttering basslines, the crowd could not help but skank. The backdrop of the circular box was minimal, LEDs spelled out BENGA, fragmented into pulsating colour, and left the rest to the man himself.

He dropped a few choice cuts of old favourites – Man on a Mission being the most memorable. For those who partake of only the most underground, or leave themselves folly to the mainstream, this is the track that would take the producer to the dizzy heights of (almost) top of the pop charts, peaking at number two.

Katy on a Mission was Katy B and Benga’s reworking of the aforementioned track with the vocalist’s sweet and strong lyrics emblazoned upon it – trailblazing their move into the national conscious.

However, the most momentous points of the early hours were the fresh tracks from Benga’s upcoming album, Chapter 2, due out in August. Luckily for everyone that sees this tour, these new ones make up most of his set.

I Will Never Change, the single released on March 5 is a fine example. Its sci-fi soundscape, rising synths and clean keyboard created a truly transcendental atmosphere in the grimy dance dungeon of the main room.

This single sounds like the work of a producer at the top of his game and loving it. With the familiar moody 3am feel of his earlier work, but with a little more room for something heartfelt lying amidst the keys.

Benga’s progression is clear, the minimalism of his earlier works is put to great use, giving way to a new and rich dynamism in the drops, layer upon layer of sound that feels immersive and mature. This is the new dub.

After the allocated hour long set was up, the crowd and DJ were still hungry for more – he gave us three more tracks and then crowdsurfed. It was an explosive climax a to knee-trembling, earth-moving set.

If this UK tour is anything to go off, we are certainly in for a treat with Chapter 2.

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