CONCERT REVIEW: Gang Starr In Belfast

Gang Starr in Belfast (review by A to the L)

(Check the exclusive concert pics at the bottom of this article.)

*This might come off as me being a little cynical… bitter… looking-down-my-nose-ish… but you know what? I don’t really give a shit. If you’re offended, its because I probably mean YOU.*

Belfast (despite being a total shithole mostly full of ignorant, small-minded fucks) has a small but knowledgable Hiphop scene, and over the past few years, due to its ability to drain money from the UK government like some kind of gigantic bigot-filled leech, has managed to secure funding for, AND build, several impressive concert venues around the city. This in turn has seen it move from being a place that was regularly ignored as artists toured the UK, to one that features regularly on their concert schedules. Recent visits from Destiny’s Child (and a follow-up solo appearance from Beyonce) and the pop midget Aguilera, and a December appearance on the cards from the boy Timberlake have shown that there IS a market here for pop-friendly R’n’B. The problem comes when you set these alongside sold-out gigs over the last couple of months at the same venues by 50 Cent and Nelly. The SAME people are going to those as are going to the Justin gigs.

“What’s the problem?” you ask. “Fiddy and Nelly are arguably as commercial as any of the other three acts you mentioned just before them.”

Well folks, the problem comes when to bring an artist like a Public Enemy or a Gang Starr here, promoters market the gig to attract the same kind of people. Now I know promoters are in the business of selling tickets – they don’t give a shit who’s in the arena as long as its full… but when the REAL fans of these groups finally get the chance to experience them live, it seems that they have to put up with fucking idiots the whole way through the concert in order to do so.

I realise that you’re probably already saying “Damn, this is one old-ass, bitter, cynical muhfucka”, and to be honest, you probably are right to say that, but let me tell you about MY personal experience of the Gang Starr gig…

Go down at 4pm on the day of the gig to try to hook up an interview with Guru, Primo, Big Shug, ANYONE. This is what I did when PE was here, and the tactic worked to perfection – as Chucky D will testify. Anywho… nobody’s around except for the sound guys. Now I’d been on and off with the promoter of this gig all week trying to hook up an interview, and he’d continually said that he’d do his best to hook something up for the day of the gig. As you’ve probably gathered – he fucking stiffed me. What made it worse was that I had a quick couple of minutes with Big Shug afterwards who said that they hadn’t been informed of any interview request at all, but if they had known, they would have been only too happy to do some shit. So lets all chant a big fuck you to Rod Martin – yeah I name names, fucker. Eat a penis.

Disappointed at not landing the interview, our hero returns home, gets cleaned up, and runs back to the venue for the gig itself. This is where things start to go a bit “weird”. Now as any fool who’s ever visited here will notice, Belfast has a distinct lack of colour about it – its almost 100% white. So it goes without saying that the majority of peoples at any gig in the city will be of the caucasion persuasion. That doesn’t bother me at all – it really doesn’t… I mean I be the paleface that moves at a snail’s pace myself. But something doesn’t quite sit right seeing dozens of white kids dressed head to toe in FUBU, and throwing up fucking GANG SIGNS (yeah you read it right) during the warm up acts (nice set by MJEX by the way.) The fact that these pricks behave like this because this is what they’ve seen their heroes (read: 50, Nelly, Snoop etc) do on MTV is a magnificent argument for banning such a shit channel.

Ok ok maybe I’ll stop ranting and talk on the Hiphop. As Premier would say, “On that note… lets get back to the program.”

So some fat fool comes out with a multi-coloured mask on and starts fucking with the turntables. Some sloppy cuts, lazy ass cueing… this goes on for about a minute or so, and then the masked man reveals himself to be none other than Christopher Martin (not the one down with Kid, keep up) and the energy level in the building instantly rises, as Premier tightens his shit up and drops the intro off “Daily Operation” before calling Guru to the stage. For real though, Primo needs to stay out of McDonalds though – cat is doughy around the middle!

For the next 3 hours, the duo cover the entire catalogue of Gang Starr hits, from the most recent material on “The Ownerz”, all the way back to “No More Mr Nice Guy” stuff. Its refreshing to see, as Primo put it himself at the start, “that real shit – not that shit you see on TV and radio all the time.” The DJ, the MC, the beats and the rhymes – no half naked dancers (though I probably wouldn’t have complained too much if some fell onto the stage), no fireworks, no shitty ass videos playing in the background to distract attention from how wack the artist actually is live. Nope – this IS Hiphop as it should be done.

The other thing that I noticed was how much care GS put into making this a “live” experience. This is is something which a lot of new artists in various genres of music seem to disregard – they seem to be happy to get on stage and sing, rap, play over copies of their own record (that’s if they’re not miming to begin with). THIS was different – and it was a trip to see Primo juggling beats live as Guru was spitting his verses. He did this for several tracks, but the standout for me was the live rendition of ‘Jazz Thing’ which saw him incorporate the brass stab just before the start of the actual song INTO the live version – cutting the sound into the loops and STILL keeping the shit on beat.

As a stage act, its obvious that these two have honed their craft down to a fine art. Throughout the concert the pair exchanged nothing more than quick looks towards the end of a track, which saw Guru launch into an acapella freestyle on it conclusion. Yeah many will think that its just ol’ Baldhead flexing his skills on the mic, but the clued up will also notice how its buying time for his DJ to get his shit cued up again before the next track starts. Its the little things like this, that make the pioneers a cut above – while you’re watching Guru rip the mic, you’re distracted away from Primo getting his wax set, which means that there’s NO long gaps between tracks… there’s ALWAYS something going on, and its NOT the usual mindless bullshit of “How y’all feel out there?” that several other artists are guilty of.

‘Manifest’, ‘Work’, ‘DWYCK’, ‘You Know My Steez’, ‘Take It Personal’, ‘Step In The Arena’, ‘Code Of The Streets’… the list goes on and on and on and on (I go to Dapper Dan etc etc.) The whole “bandwagon” shit cropped up though whenever material from “The Ownerz” was covered… all the little 50 Cent-ers happily bounced along to ‘Skillz’ and ‘Right Where You Stand’ cos that’s the shit that they’ve seen sandwiched in between ‘PIMP’ and ‘Stunt 101’ on MTV, but they all seemed hopelessly lost when Primo dropped ‘The Milita’ or ‘Above The Clouds’. It was funny in a way, but disappointing in another – at least do your fucking homework if you’re gonna come and front like you know of this artist. Oh, and fix that fucking hat right on your head son – only Fabolous can get away with wearing his shit at such a ridiculous tilt.

So where was I? Oh yeah… enter Big Shug. Sporting a rather topical Celtics jersey (“I’m Irish for real motherfuckers!”) he told us how he repped Boston for life, before launching into ‘Crush’, and then backing up Guru with verses on ‘The Militia’ and ‘Capture’. His personality on stage was a contrast to Guru. Where Baldhead slick is always cool, calm, refined and laidback, Shug’s big smile spread all over his grill and his sense of humour and fun transmitted easily to the crowd. Primo in the back meanwhile was just Primo – gruff voiced, constantly hyping the crowd, and then showing and proving on the wheels with some amazing displays of dexterity.

Ending with a promise to return soon (but don’t they ALL say that?!), this show seemed to go way too quick. I’d like to think that the overall result will see sales of Gang Starr product rise as said wanna-bes snap up their old shit… more likely though they’ll be back to G-Unit within a week or so. For those who KNOW though, this one show probably cemented Gang Starr’s reputation as pioneers in Hiphop, and in all honesty, maybe it’ll be better if they stay as “our” little secret – “One of the best yet.”

(Exclusive concert pics: Click on each to see full size version)

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