Live Music + Gig Reviews

Dizzee Rascal @ Roundhouse, London

21 October 2009

Dizzee Rascal descended on the BBC’s Electric Proms with a band, horns and string section in tow. It was his first full length live band show and proved to be an impressive melange of styles and genres, in keeping with the huge variety of influences on his music.

24-year-old Dylan Mills won the Mercury Prize in 2003 for his debut album Boy In Da Corner. Since then he has released three further albums, been nominated for the Mercury again and worked with Armand Van Helden and Calvin Harris. His trio of Number 1s over the summer – Holiday, Bonkers and Dance Wiv Me – feature on his latest album Tongue N’ Cheek, released last month.

We were warned by the announcer beforehand that “Dizzee will be his normal hard-hitting self”, and despite trying not to swear, conscious of the fact that he was being broadcast on television, he wasn’t always successful.

Also, despite the much-hyped inclusion of the Heritage Orchestra, they didn’t make their appearance until a few songs in, after his customary introduction of Jus’ A Rascal, which on this occasion featured a riff from The Strokes track Reptilia.

Indeed, given how heavily the use of these disparate elements were trailed in the promotion of the gig, you might have expected to have heard more of them. (Quite literally, during a great flamenco-style version of Holiday, when the strings struggled to be heard at all.) It was a shame, because the arrangements by Jules Buckley were very effective.

There was a particularly sweet moment when Dizzee sang – of all things – Happy Talk, a song originally from the 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific. It was unexpected, and very well done, which is something of a hallmark of Electric Proms performances.

The acoustic version of Dirtee Cash, a cover of a track by The Adventures Of Stevie V, was another highlight. He sang it in collaboration with Vula, a female member of the choir who was great throughout the evening, and will hopefully go on to do great things herself. She contributed to Dizzee’s latest album, along with Hal Ritson of the Young Punx, who could be found playing a variety of instruments on the night as well as occasionally conducting the orchestra. This track was previewed during the band’s stint on Radio 1’s Live Lounge last month, along with the introduction to another which got the crowd bouncing: the mash-up of Stand Up Look Sharp with Nirvana‘s Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Brinsley Forde from Aswad entered from stage right to perform a cheerfully ’80s ska version of Can’t Tek No More, whilst in some of the subsequent songs the bass was ratcheted up to such an extent that it felt like a scene from Jurassic Park, with the rumbling throughout the Roundhouse being more than enough to herald an approaching T-Rex.

The country-tinged version of Bonkers was inspired, with the song kicking off with a bluesy guitar sound. Dizzee even let out a”yee haw!” at the end, for good measure. The band continued their trip around the world with a version of Brand New Day that hailed from the Far East – Kate Capshaw’s version of Anything Goes from Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom sprang to mind.

Whilst there were undoubtedly some great moments to the evening, the overall tone was uneven, with his cover of Bulls On Parade by Rage Against The Machine sitting uneasily against songs earlier in the set. But given that this was his first live performance with a full band, this evening will hopefully lead to greater things. He’s live, large and in charge, after all.

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