A couple of weeks ago I mentioned on Facebook that Busta Rhymes was lpaying in London and how tempting it was to go see him. A few days after that our daughter e-mailed me e-tickets to the show as an early father’s day treat. Which was nice. I think the only way I get to do anything now is if somebody else makes the decision for me. Left to myself I would think about all the travel hassle and other logistics and not bother.Our oldest son went with me. This was interesting because it was his first proper concert and my first hip hop concert. We saw Snoop Dogg at Live 8 but that doesn’t really count. I’ll be honest, I was a bit anxious about it because my impression of rap concerts is that they tend toward the shambolic, starting hours late and then having countless hype men shouting across each other all the time and so on. The thought occurred to me that there have been hundreds of rap artists and thousands upon thousands of rap records but I coudn’t think of a single live album in the genre, while every rock band would knock out a live album and DVD every now and then. Or every tour in the case of Rush.
I even checked Wikipedia and there was a page for live rap albums which only listed about half a dozen.
So my expectations were quite low. I knew how bad it could be, but I expected Busta Rhymes would be better than most. I had no evidence for this, just a strong gut feeling.
It turned out that I was right, althoug hthe night did not start well. We turned up to find a massive queue outside closed doors and were told that everything was running late. Half an hour after the doors should have opened and they had, apparently, just started doing a soundcheck, so the first stereotype of rap concerts was met already.
Twenty-five years ago this would have been fine with me. But not only was I 25 years younger then, I lived just down the road in Lewisham and could have taken a night bus home or even walked if necessary. Now I have to worry about getting to Victoria and the availability of trains out to Crawley, which are not entirely reliable at the moment.
It all turned out OK in the end though. Busta Rhymes eventually made his grand entrance at about 10:00 I think. There was no crew, as such, just his DJ on a raised platform at the back, and Busta himself at the front in a huge white feather outfit, flanked by women.
Quite a few of the expected hip hop concert tropes were there: lots of shouting from the DJ to make some noise, put your hands in the air, or bounce, gratuitous explosion and gunfire sound effects, but it was a lot more together than it all sounds. Yes it did get a bit annoying that every song just ended in a barrage of explosions, usually after a very truncated version. The extreme was probably near the beginning when we had the familiar sound of the Knight Rider theme tune and then Turn It Up/Fire It Up only lasted about a minute before it ended. I am used to rock concerts where, when band play one of their biggest hits, they will often have an extended solo in or an extra chorus or something. In rap it is apparently OK to take a 4-minute single and just do one verse.
The sme happened with another couple of favourites, but at least when it came to Break Ya Neck he did play a shortened version but then did it twice. An instant encore.
I have to say that, in spite of all that, he put on a good show. Considering it was really just one man on a bare stage he really held your attention. Of course I am biased because I do think he is the best rapper around. Technically he is brilliant, particularly on his trademark fast raps, but he varies his style so doesn’t fall into the trap of being a one-trick pony. On top of that he has personality and a sense of humour.
I enjoyed it a lot, though in the future I will probably stick to punk where I don’t feel like the oldest person in the room!