Friday, 16 May 2014

Review: Action Bronson, Academy, 14th May

Classical music and dimming lights tells us it’s show time.
It’s a 21st century Rap Show: the DJ rocks up and plugs his laptop in.
The classical music is abruptly cut, and (after a few seconds’ awkward silence) replaced with Get Into The Groove.  Yeah, that’s right, Get Into The Groove – not even Madonna’s best song*.
We do as we’re told and get into the groove, though.

Naturally, as with every single gig/football match/public event of any kind I have ever been to, some 6 footer comes and stands right in front of me just as it kicks off.  Luckily, the two who do it this time are the crew: we rollin thick tonight, yo.  On a Wednesday – the decadence (WHAT recession?**); you know how we do. 
I manage to find space on a higher step behind The Lads so I can see everything, which is a novelty for a shortarse.

Entering to a rapturous (ha ha) welcome, Action Bronson takes the stage.  Most reviews at this point would describe him physically.  This one won't bother.  Here he is:

He used to be a chef.  No shit, I hear you snort.
(He later mentions “oh-reganno – or or-re-ga’ano”, showing some local knowledge/language barrier awareness)

Then the DJ gets told off for smoking on stage.  Slick.
Apparently unaware of this, Action encourages the crowd to spark up joints, which one or two do.  “You might get caught”, he later warns.  (“Now he tells us…” someone behind me says).  Bouncers eventually kick one person out for smoking, but they have the good grace to wait til five minutes from the end of the show.  The other smokers take advantage of the safety of crowds.

From up at the bar, the view is not as good, but it’s still funtimes all round, as heads bounce and nod.  I turn to Killjoy: “Is this Sledgehammer?”  He nods thoughtfully, as Bronson confirms from stage: “Peter Gabriel, yo!”
There follows a Phil Collins drop (not my thing – can’t stand him, myself – but it’s a surprisingly popular choice), continuing the 80s theme.  I wait for How Soon Is Now, but it never arrives***.

I don’t see how it starts, but feel a surge heading my way, as the crowd convulses around something the size of a few people. I momentarily wonder if a fight has broken out, then I see Action Bronson in the flesh, up close and very personal.  He climbs the stairs, all backslaps and handshakes.
He makes his way all around the venue, pausing on one set of stairs.  He looks like he might jump.  If he does, he’ll take a few out with him.  And possibly the floor.  Instead, he tears his shirt off and throws it to the crowd below.  Someone grabs it and I wonder why.  (What will they do with it?)
Making his way to the top balcony and back round, Bronson stops to dish out hugs.  One lad looks really affronted, and touches his shirt tentatively, as if something vile has been spilt on it.  I don’t see the cause of his disgust, but as the crown sway towards me again, I realise it’s Bronson, posing for selfies with his adoring/horrified public.

As he comes back past us down the stairs, he’s got a dude hanging off each shoulder, and people just bounce off him, like Jonah Lomu (but twice the width).  My man JamMasterJ heroically manages to save his pint from spillage as the entourage plows through, only to spill it when a lone straggler shoulders past.
It looks briefly like Action might be properly mobbed, as his head dips below grabbing hands, but, of course, he’s got little trouble shrugging them off and getting back to the stage.

The Big Man is effusive and unpredictable, finishing several songs with a capella raps.  Late in the set, he hands out champagne, encouraging sharing around the crowd, which happens when someone has the brilliant idea of shaking it up and spraying it over everyone.  Good times.  (Except for the DJ, who looks concerned for his equipment.)

Bronson disappears again, at the back of the stage; no one seriously believes it’s the end, and a football-style chanting of his name brings him back to finish with a rousing version of Strictly For My Jheeps:  “I’m a hero in my hometown, baby.”

Live and in the fleshy flesh, it all comes across as old skool Hip Hop: party music.  So it goes, and heads go off their heads for The Big Man.  He is known for sounding like Ghostface Killah, which is a fair comparison.  At 30, Bronson is a surprise success in the Rap Game, but not the only one.  Perhaps we are all growing up. 
After the lights come up, the universal signifier of “That’s yer lot, bugger off”, we repair to the local hostelry head to The Local.  Initial topics of conversation include parenthood and house-buying.  We are middle-aged, and so is Hip Hop. 

Clayton Blizzard

*Madonna’s best song is, of course, Borderline.  I will entertain no argument to the contrary.
Aw, man, if they’d dropped Borderline, I woulda went fuckin crazy…but they didn’t.
**Oh right, this recession.
***Yes, that’s a joke.  Seriously, though, if they'd'a dropped How Soon Is Now, I woulda lost my shit.

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