It’s been nearly seven years since Le Sac and Pip’s first hit, Thou Shalt Always Kill, a deliberately provocative swipe at the mindless hero worship of many a sacred musical cow (everyone from The Beatles through to Lostprophets...hmmm they may have had a point there in retrospect). Okay, perhaps it had a vague whiff of the novelty one hit wonder about it but the pair have since gone on to produce some of the freshest most thought provoking hip hop around, hence the pretty much capacity crowd tonight.
First up opener Sarah Williams White’s fusion of Erykah Badu-ish neo-soul and laid back jazz with just a dash of street courtesy of a neat little dubsteppy element. At least it would have been if we’d got there in time. I’m guessing she came on a little earlier than we expected...either that or it was the world’s fastest set.
What bit we did see was impressive though, with the Killing Me Softly referencing Your Silence Is Killing Me perhaps best demonstrating her sophisticated multilayered sound. Mental note made to catch her full set sometime soon.
Next former King Blues member Jonny Fox with his rap/rock/garage mash up Itch. King Blues established a reputation as a pretty incendiary live act and one of the more politically focussed bands around (something that’s sadly lacking right now despite the ever increasing inequality between the haves and have nots). Splitting in 2012 Fox is seemingly carrying on where the band left off with a particularly enthusiastic solo outing this evening. Somewhat off puttingly he was joined on beats by a bloke (later referred to as Screwface) wearing a rubber mask of a baby’s face that may well have given gentler members of the audience nightmares for a month. The horror...the horror! Itch himself was a relentlessly upbeat presence though, pacing around the stage, hyping up the crowd and even diving in at one point to arrange a bit of a circle pit...brave soul.
Musically set highlight Hopeless Romantic’s tale of a downtrodden girl neatly fused rock and rap whilst Like I’m Drugs bravely attempted to blend a Europop chorus with grimey beats. Hmmmmm...tricky. The latter’s the kind of tune you can imagine going down a storm at one of those club’s in Ibiza that serves buckets of vomit inducing brightly coloured cocktails for a euro. That being said listening to some of his lyrics in the cold light of day, away from the scary baby faced creature and bouncing rap caricature, he’s clearly got more to say than most. Gutter Stars in particular perhaps get’s closest to realising his musical vision referencing as it does the granddads of consciousness raising rock / rap, Rage Against The Machine (appropriately enough the band’s Zack de la Rocha gets a namecheck in the tune too).
Suitably fired up by Itch Le Sac and Pip received a pretty rapturous reception. Whether opening number Stunner is about Pip’s ex Kat Von D (as some fans have claimed) or not (Scroob’s denied it all) it’s a brilliant dark brooding beast of a track. “I wore my heart on my sleeve and you stole my fucking shirt” seems pretty clear cut to me but I ain’t no Clare Raynor. In between the retina confusing bursts of light and dark Pip looked pretty pumped performing it too, edgier than before and sporting an uber cool haircut a little at odds with the more nerdy hipster look of old. Crowd favourite The Beat That My Heart Skipped got pretty much the whole audience singing along to the “Bom bom bom baddy bah baddy baddy bah” bit, aided by Pip poking the mic stand out as far as he could into the bouncing mass at the front whilst I Feel Sick Tonight ramped things up another notch with Le Sac providing the simple but relentless beats.
“Alright Birminim” (what is it about the word Birmingham that some people find difficult to pronounce...bless him) “I think this could be the biggest gig on the entire tour” – cue huge whoops from the ‘Birminim’ crowd. It probably was too. The place was as full as a Poundland on giro day. Now that’s full.
Of course Pip and Le Sac aren’t just about the bangers. Love You Too Much To Leave gave everyone a breather whilst reminding those that need it of Pip’s spoken word background (full marks to the dude for bigging up local spoken words stars Polarbear and Jodi Anne Bickley this evening by the way). Once again the crowd took over, belting out the chorus and drawing an admiring “Bootiful” from Pip.
In between the tracks we got a man going topless in the balcony (he was later reunited with the shirt he threw onstage via some impressive teamwork from the audience all coordinated by Pip), some humorous banter from Le Sac (“I thought I was in Matisyahu’s band...”) and a bizarre request for Pip to take his beard off. I reckon that would be the end of him you know. He’d be like Samson. In fact I wonder if any photos of him exist sans beard? Hang on...nope...can’t find one. Maybe he was born like that?
Anyway back to the music and pretty much all the old favourites got an airing tonight, Angles, Get Better (still the most positive message for young people ever recorded), Thou Shalt Always Kill (bonus points for including UB40 in the lyrics...) plus some newer classics from recent album Repent Replenish Repeat. Of these Terminal in particular stood out, giving the audience perhaps the best chance to hear Pip at his poetic inner City best this evening. “Again, out of no doubt it was down to the chemicals, but she seemed to float and glow as we bounded on like thin blood through wide ventricles”. Beautiful stuff. Last song of the night? It just had to be A Letter From God To Man. At a time when religious conflicts, economic shady dealings and ecological disasters are responsible for pretty much all the horrors of the world this track should be required listening for the entire human race.
Such was the demand to meet Pip after the show the merch stand couldn’t cope so he took to the streets, standing out in the cold to meet the faithful and sign whatever was thrust his way. Proof that Thou Shalt Always Kill (in the best possible meaning of the word of course) right until the very end...