Out To Lunch Festival: Ghostpoet
The Black Box, Belfast
12th January 2012
The hype of the awards and the critics has done its job as the much acclaimed Ghostpoet has sold out in advance, and it’s a bunged Black Box that waits for the evening’s sole performer. Although he’s not alone, instead accompanied by a drummer, guitarist/keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist and, of course, the now ubiquitous box of tricks and technical gadgetry that accompanys every musician these day.
Before the gig actually starts the trio have a little sport like team huddle, as though gearing themselves up for the big match. Its not a common sight at gigs – usually such things take place backstage – but perhaps they need a bit of reassurance for (as we’re reminded a few times) this is their first gig of the year.
Stylistically, he draws from the traditions of hip-hop, the vocal performance recalling Saul Williams and Roots Manuva in its mix of half-sung/half-rap drawl rather than pure rhyme-spitting. However the beats are less conventional, mixing the contemporary dubstep influences of night-time urban industrial hiss and rattle with post-rock, making a much less oppressive performance than the recorded material.
This change in vibe is helped by the gregarious nature of Ghostpoet who comes across a lot warmer than the detached, isolated voice of the album. Instead he's bantering with the crowd (the usual festival mix of the curious, the middle-aged/middle-classes getting their critically approved culture, the chin-stroking musos, the fans and the kids), exhorting us to enjoy ourselves and sing along with the ‘na na na-na-na’s of ‘Survive It’.
Of course, being only one album in, there isn’t a lot of material to draw on, and it’s the more dance/dub influenced tracks like ‘Us Against Whatever Ever’, ‘Finished Ain’t I’ and closing number ‘Cash And Carry Me Home’ that work best with the audience. Although ‘Liiines’ deserves special mention for it’s repetitive euphoria and post-rock wig-out ending, a contrast to the claustrophobic paranoia that comes across from the album. This appears to be the influence of the live performance as part of a band, as he bounces off his drummer and guitarist, exchanging looks and glances as the material develops into a performance from his original ideas. This may explain new track ‘Hurt Yourself’, which is almost Latin in flavour, seemingly developed on guitar and drums rather than a collection of beats on a laptop.
Either way, he’s no longer a mysterious Ghost to Belfast.