Friday, October 15, 2010

Arrested Development / sonnyjim / Kosyne / Redbeard / Kelakovski @ The HMV Institute, Thursday 14th October

Arrested Development’s heyday was way back in the early 90’s, courtesy of their laid back, feel great classic album ‘3 years, 5 months & 2 days in the life of...’ (the time period that, legend has it, it took the band to get signed). I loved it at the time but I lost track of the band not long afterwards (they split in ‘96) and, to be honest, I hadn’t even realised they’d reformed back in 2000. Judging by the relatively small venue they were playing tonight (The Temple at the HMV Institute) I wasn’t the only one...

First up though there was a bit of a local showcase for Eat Good Records, featuring a trio of rappers and beat master Kelakovski. Not sure it showed off the best of their individual talents but they’re all well worth checking out. There’s some brilliant street battle footage (where two rappers go up against each other to diss their opponent into oblivion) of Kosyne on his myspace page to give you an idea of what they’re capable of.

With the room less than full and a cluster of people stood at the back near the bar I feared that this gig could turn into a bit of a letdown. Feel good bands like AD really need to feed off an audience and the pickings tonight looked a little slim. They’ve lost co-founder Headliner (he declined to rejoin the reunion) too...and I couldn’t see the old dude (Babe Oje – their ‘spiritual leader’) either. Any concerns about the line up, crowd or new material were swiftly squished though thanks to a grin inducing rock intro that morphed straight into ‘We Rad We Doin It’ from the band’s surprisingly fresh sounding new album ‘Strong’. Echoing The Jackson 5’s ‘Can You Feel It’ with Spearhead’s positivity and a canny slice of Black Eyed Peas pop nous the whole thing was animated by some furious dancing courtesy of Montsho Eshe. Damn that girl can dance! She’s a booty shaking, split making, high kicking bundle of fun and I bet she’d get Stephen Hawking up and dancing given half a chance. It was as infectious as hell and, as the people at the back shuffled forward, and hands were raised in the air the place came alive. It’s musical serotonin, physically impossible to resist and a huge great cloud of happy engulfed the room. All of the new tracks (and for most of the audience this formed 90% of the set) went down well, from the slightly hippy dippy light funk recession anthem (just listen to the lyrics) ‘The World Is Changing’ to the more African tribal sounds of ‘Bloody’ (a stinging attack on rap's obsession with bling and it's failure to tackle the issues that actually matter).

Predictably their three biggest hits, ‘Tennessee’, ‘Mr Wendal’ and the Sly sampling ‘People Everyday’ got a huge reception with the band making the most of the opportunities for audience participation...which normally really gets on my tits but tonight it just felt right. Tasha Larae’s vocals on Tennessee were pant wettingly awesome, just the right balance of gospel fervour and soulfulness, as hot and spicy as a bowl of gumbo on a hot summer’s night. Yum. Put me down for seconds.

At the heart of the show was the band’s co-founder Speech, looking distinctly bookish this evening in specs (not sure if there was any glass in them, but they suited him nevertheless)...a bit like a cool college lecturer, which I suppose is what he is. Given the mess we’ve made of the planet, economy and life in general a lesson in the good time vibes of an Arrested Development show is something we could all do with right now. Make that a double lesson in fact. With extra homework too. Clear, rhythmic and exuding boundless enthusiasm (even at the start of the show when he wasn’t getting much back) this is how good rap can be when it’s separated from the ‘my cock’s bigger than yours I’m gonna fuck your shit up’ crap that’s still, sadly, what most people mindlessly play on their shitty mobile phones on the back of the bus (yeah...dead gangsta that).

As the show ended the band came to the front and took time to shake hands, embrace the faithful and have a chat. It’s the kind of thing you expect from a new group but perhaps less so from a band that’s been around nearly 20 years...nice to see that the ‘we’re all one’ message they preach ain’t just an act.

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